Tough Test Ahead: Jacks face No. 4-ranked Missouri State on the road

Marshall Minihan, Sports Reporter

The South Dakota State Jackrabbits will travel to Robert W. Plaster Stadium in Springfield, Missouri to take on the Missouri State Bears Saturday Sept. 24 in their Missouri Valley Football Conference opener.

The game marks the first time since 2019 that the Bears and Jacks matched up against each other. In their last five outings, South Dakota State has doubled Missouri State’s points scored in blowout wins.

This is the second time in Missouri State history that the Bears will play a top-5 ranked team in their conference while also being ranked in the top five.

SDSU owns the rivalry with 11 wins and only one loss, which came in 2013 when they were defeated in Springfield with 35-21.

Both Missouri State and South Dakota State enter the conference portion of the season at 2-1 with their one loss being against an FBS school.

Here’s what to look for on each team before the game. 

About South Dakota State:

The Jacks started their season with a close loss to Iowa but have bounced back in their two previous games beating UC Davis and Butler. They are currently ranked No. 3 in the FCS Coaches’ Poll.

On the season, quarterback Mark Gronowski has thrown 40 completions on 72 attempts for 476 yards, along with four passing touchdowns and two interceptions. Gronowski has proven himself on the ground as well as in the air this season, rushing for three touchdowns.

In the backfield, star running back Isaiah Davis leads the Jacks in rushing yards and rushing attempts this season with 236 yards on 54 attempts but has yet to score a touchdown this season. Davis averaged 6.7 yards per carry against Butler totaling 74 yards on 11 attempts.

“I thought Isaiah Davis ran really, really well and if we had left him in there, he would have broke one,” coach John Stiegelmeier said after the Butler game.

Gronowski has been getting all his receivers involved in games this season by connecting passes with 11 different receivers. Leading the pack in receiving are the Janke twins. Jadon Janke has racked up 120 yards this season on eight catches. He started the season slow with zero catches against Iowa and only 33 yards against UC Davis. He then showed out against Butler with 87 yards and a touchdown. Jaxon Janke holds second place in receiving yards this season with 81.

Canyon Bauer got his first catch last week and put up 76 yards in the game with 54 of those yards coming from just one play. 

“Really excited about Canyon Bauer’s play. I think there’s a guy who just quietly goes about his job and when his number is called, for the most part, he gives you more than you asked for,” Stiegelmeier said.

On the defensive side, linebacker Adam Bock is once again proving why he made All-Missouri Valley Conference First team in 2021 with 26 combined tackles on the season (15 solo tackles). Colby Huerter ranks second in tackles for the Jacks with 12 total.

SDSU’s defense has three interceptions on the year coming from Daeton Mcgaughy, Cale Reeder and Caleb Francl. 

About Missouri State:

Missouri State is currently tied for fourth in the coaches’ poll with Montana State. The Bears started their season 2-0 by taking down Central Arkansas and Tennessee-Martin. In the Bears’ third game of the season, they lost to Arkansas after leading at halftime.

Missouri State quarterback Jason Shelley has been impressive this season with 920 yards and seven touchdowns with no interceptions and two touchdowns on the ground. He has also been sacked 17 times this season for a total loss of 102 yards. 

Wide receiver Tyrone Scott has been Shelley’s favorite target this season. He has put up 321 receiving yards so far on the season with four touchdowns on 19 receptions. Jahod Booker is at 185 yards this season on 13 receptions and no touchdowns.

Running back Kevon Latulas has been getting a solid amount of targets in the passing game as well. Latulas has 99 receiving yards on the season, only 20 yards less than SDSU’s leading receiver.

Tailback Jacardia Wright leads Missouri State in rushing yards with 195 on the season. Wright is averaging just under four yards per carry and has a single touchdown on the season. He had a breakout game against Tennessee-Martin in week two with 120 yards on the ground as well as 42 yards receiving.

Defensively, linebacker Ferrin Manuleleua leads the team in tackles with a combined total of 20 on the season, followed by cornerback Montrae Braswell with 19.

Missouri State has a total of three interceptions on the season along with three forced fumbles.

Up Next:

The South Dakota State Jackrabbits come home to Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium for the third time this season for an afternoon matchup against Western Illinois Oct. 1 at 2 p.m.