SDSU looks to rebound at Missouri State

Jakob King, Sports Reporter

With hopes to get back in the win column after last weekend’s loss, the South Dakota State football team will be on the road Saturday for the third time in the last four games to take on Missouri State.

After missing out on reclaiming the Dakota Marker from rival North Dakota State and taking over first place in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier says his team had to take some time to “let it hurt” and reflect on the loss.

Now they’re ready to move forward and “play in the present,” a method Stiegelmeier credits for being the reason the Jacks haven’t lost consecutive regular season games since 2014.

“It allows you to think about what you could’ve done to not let it hurt,” Stiegelmeier said. “They had a chance to be number one and maybe be in the running for a conference championship. To just put it behind you without thinking about all the work and effort they’ve put in would be an error.”

A contest against the Bears may be an ideal way for the Jacks to get back on track. SDSU (6-2, 3-1 MVFC) has dominated the series, winning 10 of 11 matchups all-time. The Jackrabbits crushed the Bears 59-7 last year in Brookings and haven’t lost to MSU (1-6, 1-3 MVFC) since 2013.

The starting quarterback for the Jacks this week is unknown. Redshirt freshman J’Bore Gibbs exited last week’s loss with a leg injury in the first quarter. If he’s unable to play, Stiegelmeier said that the staff will determine the starter as the week of practice progresses.

According to MSU head coach Dave Steckel, the Bears aren’t concerned about who will be taking snaps for the Jacks on Saturday.

“It doesn’t add a challenge, and the reason why is because when the other quarterbacks came in, they ran the exact same offense,” Steckel said. “It’s not like one guy is an option guy and one guy is a drop-back guy. Their scheme was exactly the same.”

Steckel took over the Missouri State program prior to the 2015 season but hasn’t been able to get the program going in the right direction. Steckel has a 13-38 career record, with his best finishes being 4-7 records in 2016 and 2018. The Bears haven’t had a winning record since 2007 and have finished four of the last five seasons in the bottom two of the MVFC — a place they’re on track to finish again this season.

MSU is in need of a bounce-back win of its own. They’ve dropped three straight including a 29-6 beat down at the hands of Northern Iowa last weekend.

Though the Bears’ record isn’t impressive, they are challenging themselves with tough opponents. They led now-No. 4 Kennesaw State 16-7 at halftime but lost after being outscored 28-8 in the second half. They also held NDSU to a season-low 22 points, though the Bears weren’t able to score any points themselves.

On offense, the Bears are led by dual-threat quarterback Peyton Huslig, who has thrown for 1,525 yards, 11 touchdowns and six interceptions.

“He’s very active and a gunslinger,” Stiegelmeier said. “He’s going to do everything he can to make a play.”

For the Bears to keep the game close, it will be imperative for Huslig to have a big day throwing the ball against the Jacks, as the MSU run game averages just 1.9 yards per rush.

Missouri State’s defensive front seven is lined with talent, headed by preseason first-team All-MVFC Angelo Garbutt (37 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss) who plays alongside preseason honorable mention All-MVFC players linebacker Matt McClellan (27 tackles, 7 TFL) and defensive lineman McNeece Egbim (63 tackles, 8.5 TFL).

“Defensively they’re very athletic and they’re good,” Stiegelmeier said. “They just haven’t been great in a total game to win more games, but we can’t allow them to do that. We’re on the road; we have to be ready to play our best football.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at Robert W. Plaster Stadium in Springfield, Missouri.