Jacks v. Bison

SDSU vying for third straight Dakota Marker with No. 1 ranking on the line


Joclyn Haven

The Jackrabbits celebrate with the Dakota Marker trophy after the Jacks defeated the Bison last season at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.

Marshall Minihan, Sports Reporter

The Dakota Marker and the No. 1 ranking is on the line Saturday as the Jackrabbit football team travels to Fargo to take on the North Dakota State Bison at 2:30 p.m.

Just one week after taking on their in-state rival, the University of South Dakota Coyotes, the Jacks square up to take on a bigger challenge in North Dakota State.

The Jackrabbits are ranked No. 2 in the FCS STATS poll, while the Bison are the No. 1 team in the country.

This is the second time in FCS history that the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams will face off in a regular season game. The first No. 1 and No. 2 matchup was in 1993 when top-ranked Northern Iowa narrowly beat No. 2 Idaho 27-26.

This marks the 113th matchup between the Bison and the Jacks, with the first game dating back to 1903. Currently, NDSU owns the overall matchup record at 63-44-5, but the Jackrabbits have won the last two games.

Both teams were victorious last weekend with the Jacks winning 28-3 against the USD and the Bison narrowly beating Indiana State 31-26.

NDSU and SDSU are both 5-1 on the season (3-0 in Missouri Valley Football Conference) with both losses coming from teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision when Iowa beat SDSU 7-3 and Arizona beat NDSU 31-28.

The game can be seen on Midco Sports and ESPN+. Here’s what to look for on each team ahead of this highly-anticipated matchup.

South Dakota State:

Starting the season with a loss, SDSU is now running on a five-game winning streak after beating USD last week.

Star tailback Isaiah Davis has been the Jacks’ offensive player of the week for the last two weeks coming off major games. Davis currently leads the team in rushing yards at 626 yards and five touchdowns on 116 carries. After scoring his first touchdown of the season in week five, Davis now leads the team in the category.

Along with Davis, backup Amar Johnson is averaging 4.8 yards a carry. Johnson currently is at 181 yards for the season on 42 carries.

Quarterback Mark Gronowski sits at a 59% completion percentage on the season (91-154). He has thrown 10 touchdowns this season, three interceptions, and four rushing touchdowns, the second most on the team.

The Janke Twins hold the top spots in the receiving category. Jaxon Janke leads the team in receptions with 26, yards with 334, and receiving touchdowns with four. Jadon Janke has caught 19 passes this season and has 258 yards as well as three touchdowns. South Dakota native, tight end Zach Heins has 14 receptions this season along with 201 yards and two scores.

The Jackrabbit defense has been great throughout this season, allowing only 73 points in six games (12.1 per game). Opponents average about 57 rushing yards and 170 passing yards per game when playing SDSU. The defense currently ranks second in FCS behind Jackson State in yards allowed per game.

Linebacker Adam Bock leads the defense in total tackles on the season at 50. SDSU has eight interceptions so far, two coming from Cale Reeder. The Jackrabbits have 16 sacks this season, with seven coming against USD last week. Defensive lineman Reece Winkleman leads the team in sacks with 3.5 this season, followed closely by Bock who is at 3.

“We’re playing some good football, we’re both highly ranked,” Jacks coach John Stiegelmeier said. “This is going to have an impact if we keep playing good football after this on how the playoffs will sort out.”

North Dakota State:

NDSU started the season 2-0 before losing to the University of Arizona in week three, which is their only loss of the season.

The Bison began conference play after the Arizona loss, picking up wins against USD, Youngstown State, and Indiana State last week.

Bison quarterback Cam Miller has had an accurate season so far, throwing for 806 yards on a 69% completion rate. Miller also has thrown for six touchdowns and only one interception.

Zach Mathis leads the Bison in receiving yards after losing wide receiver Christian Watson to the Green Bay Packers in the NFL draft last year. Mathis has racked up 215 yards on the season so far and leads the team in receiving touchdowns.

Tailback Hunter Luepke has run for 478 yards this season and has scored eight touchdowns. On 73 carries, Luepke averages 6.5 yards per carry.

The Bison linebacker duo of James Kaczor and Nick Kubitz are both over 30 tackles on the season. With Kaczor at 37 and Kubitz at 21 total tackles. NDSU has intercepted the ball five times this season and has a total of 15 sacks, with defensive end Spencer Waege having 3.5 of them.

“I think our kids will be locked in and we have to have greater focus going to in this game than we’ve had the last couple,” Bison head coach Matt Entz said about playing SDSU.

Next up:

South Dakota State will play again in North Dakota, but this time playing the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks in Grand Forks Oct. 22, at 3 p.m.