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SDSU football looks for 2-0 start in Beef Bowl

MIRANDA+SAMPSON%0A%0ASophomore+quarterback+Kanin+Nelson+%2812%29+runs+the+ball+up+the+field+during+the+SDSU+vs.+Montana+State+game+of+Saturday%2C+Sept.+8+at+Dana+J.+Dykhouse+Stadium+in+Brookings%2C+S.D.+
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SDSU football looks for 2-0 start in Beef Bowl

MIRANDA SAMPSON

Sophomore quarterback Kanin Nelson (12) runs the ball up the field during the SDSU vs. Montana State game of Saturday, Sept. 8 at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings, S.D.

MIRANDA SAMPSON Sophomore quarterback Kanin Nelson (12) runs the ball up the field during the SDSU vs. Montana State game of Saturday, Sept. 8 at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings, S.D.

MIRANDA SAMPSON

MIRANDA SAMPSON Sophomore quarterback Kanin Nelson (12) runs the ball up the field during the SDSU vs. Montana State game of Saturday, Sept. 8 at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings, S.D.

MIRANDA SAMPSON

MIRANDA SAMPSON

MIRANDA SAMPSON Sophomore quarterback Kanin Nelson (12) runs the ball up the field during the SDSU vs. Montana State game of Saturday, Sept. 8 at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings, S.D.

Landon Dierks

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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 with the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Golden Lions (UAPB).

According to VegasInsider, the third-ranked Jackrabbits are 53 1/2-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, South Dakota State holds a great advantage over its opponent, but head coach John Stiegelmeier says the UAPB team coming to Brookings on Saturday is fast and athletic. Stiegelmeier, who is now in his twenty-second 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 are 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.

The Jackrabbit secondary will be tested by the big play potential of UAPB. Wilkes has an average of 30 yards per reception and three more Golden Lion receivers have at least five receptions and an average greater than 15 yards per catch this season.

“There are good athletes on that team and we saw that on film,” said SDSU senior cornerback Jordan Brown. “They’re going to make plays. We just have to make tackles and keep everything in front of us.”

In the first game of the post-Dallas Goedert and Jake Wieneke era, the SDSU offense did not struggle to move the football.

Senior quarterback Taryn Christion accounted for five of the six touchdowns the Jacks scored. Christion threw four touchdowns to wide receiver Cade Johnson and ran for another as the Jackrabbits established a balanced attack that gained 193 yards on the ground and 319 yards through the air.

Johnson filled the stat sheet in the win over Montana State, earning him Co-Offensive Player of the Week honors in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The 5-foot-10-inch sophomore notched 138 yards receiving and tied a SDSU record for single-game touchdown receptions with four of his nine catches resulting in six points.

Establishing a balanced attack will be critical for the SDSU offense against UAPB. With the strength of the passing game under Christion’s senior leadership and a Golden Lion defense that has surrendered more than 400 yards rushing in only two games, the Jacks should have plenty of opportunities to move the football on Saturday.

Jackrabbit nation came out in force for the home opener with the official attendance being reported at more than 14,500 people. According to Athletic Director Justin Sell, there were over 3,300 students in attendance.

Stiegelmeier was quick to thank those in attendance, especially the students, and hopes the crowd from the Montana State game shows up again for the Beef Bowl game against UAPB and the rest of the season.

“(The people in the crowd) impact the game,” he said.  “When they know that, the culture changes. It isn’t about pheasants, it isn’t about holidays, it’s Jackrabbit football and we have to be at the stadium. I can’t say it enough how much we appreciate what [the fans] add to the football game.”

The 52nd annual Beef Bowl will kickoff between the Jacks and the Golden Lions at 6 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 15 at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.

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