SDSU football looks for 2-0 start in Beef Bowl

Landon Dierks

Fresh off of a dominant season-opener with a 45-14 home victory over the Montana State Bobcats, the South Dakota State football team now sets its focus on a matchup against the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions (UAPB).

According to VegasInsider, the third-ranked Jackrabbits are 53.5-point favorites over a UAPB team that split its first two games against non-Division I opponents.

UAPB (1-1) drubbed NAIA foe Cumberland University 55-0 this past Saturday. Cumberland plays in the same division as Dakota State and Dakota Wesleyan. UAPB fell in the team’s season opener to Division II opponent Morehouse College 34-30.

On paper, SDSU holds a great advantage over its opponent, but head coach John Stiegelmeier said the UAPB team coming to Brookings on Saturday is fast and athletic. Stiegelmeier, who is now in his 22nd year at the helm for the Jacks, isn’t worried about his team overlooking Saturday’s opposition.

“Every week, regardless of the opponent, the battle is inside you to improve,” Stiegelmeier said.  “In reality, Arkansas-Pine Bluff this week is no different than James Madison [which crushed SDSU 51-16 in last year’s FCS semifinal game.] You’re playing for something different, but the goal is to play better than you did last week so that’s how we are approaching [the game.]  Regardless of who you play and what their record is, we need to be ready to play.”

The Golden Lions have struggled in recent seasons, owning an 11-44 record over the past five full years. Cedric Thomas was hired as head coach of UAPB, his alma mater, this offseason in hopes of turning the football program around.

While UAPB was only able to split the first two contests of the season, the team was without running back KeShawn Williams. The senior led the team with over 1,000 total yards from scrimmage last season but has yet to see the field in the 2018 due to injury. In his absence, the Golden Lions have relied heavily on their passing attack to move the football.

Junior quarterback Shannon Patrick is in his first year as a starter for the Golden Lions and has already established an on-field connection with junior wide receiver Josh Wilkes. Through two games, Patrick and the 6-foot-3-inch tall Wilkes have connected 14 times for 420 yards and four touchdowns.