South Dakota State University's Student-Run Independent Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

South Dakota State University's Student-Run Independent Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

South Dakota State University's Student-Run Independent Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

Football prepares for No. 11 North Dakota

Jocelyn Haven

The SDSU football team is back in action after the bye week and ready to start Missouri Valley Football Conference play. 

The Jackrabbits will open conference play against No. 11 University of North Dakota on Saturday in front of another sold-out crowd at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium. 

This will be the 41st meeting between the two teams, with South Dakota State taking the last two matchups. However, the Fighting Hawks haven’t made things easy for the Jackrabbits as of late. 

North Dakota knocked off the Jackrabbits in the 2021 Spring season, and most recently got off to an early 14-0 in the first quarter of their regular season game last season. 

The biggest difference between those two games and the upcoming matchup this season is location. The Fighting Hawks have one of the best records at home, having lost just two games at the Alerus Center since 2019.  

This time around, they’ll need to knock off the defending champs in their house.  

About SDSU 

The defending FCS national champions have ended their non-conference schedule undefeated and look poised to make a run at the Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC) title once again. While the Jacks will have to play three more games against ranked opponents, they know how tough this conference can be. 

  “We’re really just focused on this week,” head coach Jimmy Rogers said. “In two weeks from now we’ll play another several teams that are ranked and then the next week after that, it’s just the Missouri Valley, everybody can beat you.”  

The Jacks currently hold the longest win streak in school history as well as the longest active win streak in the FCS at 17 games, 13 more than the next longest streak. They also have the third highest active home winning streak in the FCS at 14 straight games. 

Through the first three games of the season, this Jackrabbit team has shown why they’re the No. 1 ranked team in the FCS, overpowering their opponents from start to finish.  

SDSU has an average margin of victory of 35 points on the year, while outgaining opponents by an average of 196 yards per game. 

While some might argue the Jackrabbits have played an easier non-conference schedule than most, they won the games they should have won, and dominated in the games they should have dominated.  

Apart from the first half against Montana State, the Jacks have been one of the most consistent teams in the country, both offensively and defensively. 

SDSU will come into this game with the No. 1 scoring offense and defense in the country this season, scoring 45 points per game while giving up just 10 points per game. However, the Jacks have bigger goals in mind than just the statistics. 

“The most important thing is winning and playing team football,” coach Rogers said. “We want to be the number one team in the country at the end of this, whether were the number one offense or defense.” 

Junior quarterback Mark Gronowski has thrown eight touchdown passes to just one interception, 531 passing yards, and has another 56 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.  

While the yardage doesn’t seem like a lot through three games, two blowout wins from the Jacks warranted the starters being benched as early as halftime.  

The Jacks have used a plethora of tailbacks in the ground game this season. Leading the charge is Amar Johnson, with 180 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries. Isaiah Davis added 162 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, while Sophomore tailback Angel Johnson has 15 carries for 148 yards and two touchdowns. 

The Jackrabbits have found most of their success on the ground, led by the 605 Hogs. SDSU returned all five starting offensive linemen from last season, which has helped pave the way for the Jacks run game. 

On the receiving side, Jaxon Janke and Griffin Wilde have been in a tear to start the season, having a combined 20 catches for 300 yards and four touchdowns. With Jadon Janke returning from injury this week, expect the receivers to have a huge day on a defense that struggles against the pass. 

Defensively, the Jackrabbits have been one of the best in college football. They’re allowing just 10 points per game, including giving up just 16 points against No. 3 Montana State. All this while not having All-conference linebacker Adam Bock on the field due to injury.  

One major cause for concern on this Jackrabbit defense is they have yet to record a single sack this season. They have a knack for stopping the run but have yet to get to the opposing quarterback for a loss.  

With the hope that Bock will return from injury this week, the defense should be able to generate a lot more pressure. Senior linebacker Saiveon Williamson has stepped up big for the Jacks in Bock’s absence, leading the defense in tackles with 23. 

About UND 

North Dakota comes into this game with a 2-1 record and the No. 11 ranked team in the latest FCS coach’s poll. With wins over Drake and Northern Arizona to start the season, they most recently lost to FBS-level Boise State, 42-18.  

While the Fighting Hawks have been one of the best teams at home in the past 4 years, they tend to struggle on the road. Head coach Bubba Schweigert knows this will be a tough challenge for his team. 

“We have to go on the road and beat teams like this if we want to be included in the conversation as one of the top teams in this league,” coach Schweigert says. “And this will be a huge challenge for us, but I know we’re excited about it.” 

Since 2020, UND is 5-12 on the road, while going 14-2 at home. This includes three straight losses on the road, with their last road win coming against Indiana State last November.  

The Fighting Hawks offense has been solid to start the season, averaging over 425 yards and 36 points per game. 

The offense is once again led by senior quarterback Tommy Schuster, who has completed over 70% of his passes for 663 yards and five touchdowns. 

In the backfield, sophomore tailback Gaven Ziebarth is leading the charge with 216 yards and two touchdowns. Senior tight end Quincy Vaughn has also added another three rushing touchdowns on just six carries as well. 

In the passing game, senior wide receiver Bo Belquist has been Schuster’s favorite target so far, catching 23 passes for 296 yards and two touchdowns. Red Wilson has another 11 catches for 116 yards, and Wesley Eliodor has seven catches for 98 yards and two more touchdowns. 

Defensively, UND has struggled in the passing game, giving up over 250 yards per game. However, they have done a good job forcing turnovers, recovering four of their five forced fumbles, and having two interceptions on the season. 

Junior linebacker Wyatt Pedigo has led the defense in tackles this season with 22, while recording one sack and forcing a fumble, while recovering three total. 

The Fighting Hawks will have a tall mountain to climb this Saturday at Dana J. Dykhouse stadium, but Coach Schweigert says he’s ready for the challenge and ready for the atmosphere of the sellout crowd. 

“It’s going to be an exciting environment, they’re coming off a national championship they’re the number one ranked team in the country,” Schweigert says. “I’m hoping we have some of those seats filled with our fans.”  

Up Next: 

The Jackrabbits will hit the road next week to Normal, IL to take on the Illinois State Redbirds on October 7 at 6 p.m. 

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