Jacks to face Sac State in second round

Skyler Jackson, Sports Editor

The South Dakota State Jackrabbits will look to keep their national title hopes alive this weekend as they travel to Hornet Stadium Saturday, Dec. 4 to take on Sacramento State.

The Jackrabbits are coming off a first-round victory against UC Davis, while the No. 4 seed Hornets were off last weekend after receiving a first-round bye.

The Jacks have qualified for the FCS playoffs ten consecutive times and have made the second round eight times. For Sacramento State, this is only their second-ever FCS playoff appearance.

Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. central time. The winner will advance to the quarterfinals to take on the winner of Holy Cross and fifth-seeded Villanova.

About South Dakota State

Coming off an impressive 56-24 blowout win against UC Davis, the Jackrabbits (9-3, 5-3 Missouri Valley Football Conference) head into Sacramento with tons of momentum.

Against the Aggies last week, the Jacks put up 545 yards of total offense, including 446 yards on the ground, their highest team rushing total of the season.

Throughout the season, SDSU has had one of the most dynamic offenses in the FCS. They currently have the sixth highest-scoring offense in the country, averaging 38.8 points per game. Against UC Davis, the Jacks scored 40 or more points for the eighth time this season.

SDSU also has a top-20 defense in the nation, allowing opponents less than 20 points per game this season. Last week, the Jackrabbit defense totaled six interceptions, the first time they’ve done that in almost 70 years and returned two of them for touchdowns. 

After hosting their first-round playoff game, the Jacks will likely have to play on the road for the rest of the postseason. But the Jacks have been an impressive road team all season, winning four of their five games.

“We were really appreciative of being able to play at home,” coach John Stiegelmeier said. “Now we look forward to going to Sacramento State and trying to play our best football.”

About Sacramento State

Sacramento State (9-2, 8-0 Big Sky Conference), led by second-year coach Troy Taylor, is also heading into this matchup with a lot of momentum.

After a win against Dixie State to start the season, the Hornets dropped two straight against UNI and California, an FBS school from the Pac-12 Conference.

Since then, they have won eight straight games, including wins against No. 5 Montana, No. 10 UC Davis. Those two wins, helped the Hornets earn the No. 4 seed in the playoffs.

The Hornets offense has been solid all year long, averaging 31.4 points per game. They have a top-15 passing offense, averaging 284.1 passing yards per game. On defense, the Hornets also have a top-20 defense in the country, holding opponents to 18.64 points a game.

This is only the second-ever FCS playoff appearance for Sacramento State. They made it back in 2019, also as the No. 4 seed, and lost to Austin Peay 42-28. A win for the Hornets would be their first playoff win in program history.

 “I’m very impressed with what (coach Taylor’s) done and what his staff has done,” Stigelmeier said. “With the athletes they have, and the schemes they run, it’s an impressive football program.”

Key Players for SDSU

Last week against UC Davis, the Jackrabbit rushing attack was as dominant as it’s been all season.

Pierre Strong Jr., who leads the FCS in rushing yards with 1,489, carried the ball 19 times for 188 yards and a rushing touchdown against the Aggies. Strong also had a passing touchdown.

After missing eight games due to injury, Isaiah Davis made his return two weeks ago against North Dakota. Last week, Davis rushed for 217 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown.

Despite the Jacks not throwing the ball much last week, quarterback Chris Oladokun finished 8-17 for 89 yards and two passing touchdowns. He also caught the touchdown pass from Strong.

Jaxon Janke is the team’s leader in receiving yards with 894. His brother Jadon leads the team with eight touchdown receptions.

On defense, Dalys Beanum had three of SDSU’s six interceptions last week and returned one for a touchdown. Adam Bock, who leads the team in tackles, had the other pick-six. Cade Terveer and Don Gardner also had an interception.

Key Players for Sac State

This season, Sacramento State has been successful offensively.

Jake Dunniway is their leading passer, going 156-245 for 2,245 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. Asher O’Hara has been a great dual-threat QB for the Hornets. He is 84-138 passing with 855 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions.

O’Hara is also the team’s leading rusher with 655 yards on 157 attempts and nine rushing touchdowns. Running back Cameron Skattebo is second in rushing yards with 497 and touchdowns with six.

Pierre Williams and Marshel Martin have been Sac State’s two best receivers. Williams leads the team in receiving yards with 664 on 43 receptions and two touchdowns. Martin leads the team with 47 receptions and six touchdowns.

On defense, Marcus Hawkins is the Hornets’ leading tackler with 74. He also leads the team with five sacks. Marte Mapu and Muchie Filer III lead in interceptions with four each. Mapu is also second in tackles with 59.