Jacks look to change recent Hobo Day fortunes

Landon Dierks

In the 105th installment of the Hobo Day game, South Dakota State will enter this weekend’s contest against Youngstown State with the highest Football Championship Subdivision ranking in program history.

The No. 2 Jackrabbits (3-1, 1-1) will host the Penguins (2-3, 1-1) on Hobo Day for the second time in three years.

The Jacks are 60-39-5 all-time on Hobo Day, including a 3-1 mark against Youngstown State. SDSU handled YSU two years ago 24-10 in the most recent Hobo Day meeting.

After a flat performance in a 38-18 loss to Northern Iowa on Hobo Day last year and a 1-4 record in the last five years, the Jackrabbits are looking to come out strong this time around.

“Last year was really rough,” junior running back Mikey Daniel said. “We just want to be able to bring a win back to Brookings on Hobo Day and give the fans what they want.”

After starting out 0-2, the Penguins have won two of their last three games, including a 17-14 victory over Southern Illinois last week.

 A 2-3 record might not be an accurate indicator of how well Youngstown State can play. Two of the Penguins’ three losses were by one possession. 

“Coach [Bo] Pelini does a great job. He’ll have a really good defensive gameplan,” SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said. “Last year they kicked the heck out of us and so we’ve got to get ready for a physical football game and surely have to play better defense than we did this last week.”

Despite Youngstown State’s defensive mindset, the Penguins do not lack talent on the offense.

Senior tailback Tevin McCaster earned first-team all-MVFC honors last season after rushing for 1,066 yards and 13 touchdowns. 

This year, McCaster hasn’t slowed down. McCaster has 535 rushing yards and six touchdowns to pace the Penguin rushers. 

“We have to honor [the run game] because last year they ran the ball down our throats,” Stiegelmeier said. 

In the matchup last year, Youngstown State ran for 310 yards, 183 of those came from McCaster, in a 19-7 victory. 

The SDSU defense is giving up an average of 177 rushing yards a game including a season worst 293 yards to Indiana State last week. The Jacks will have to improve the run defense in order to be successful against the Penguins on Saturday.

“[YSU] is definitely physical,” senior linebacker Eric Kleinschmit said. “They’re a good team so we have to be ready to shut them down.”

In addition to their all-MVFC talent, the Penguins found a new starting quarterback in Montgomery VanGorder, a graduate transfer from Notre Dame.

In the air, VanGorder has thrown for 1,148 yards with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions in five games.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Penguins are led by 2017 second-team all-MVFC linebacker Armand Dellovade. The senior leads the YSU defense with 43 tackles and has added a sack and an interception. 

“[Dellovade] is very active and finds a way to get to the ball and get involved,” Stiegelmeier said. “[As a defense] they are very sound. Coach Pelini is not going to blitz to try and stop something for the most part.”

YSU is allowing an average of 28.2 points a game and will have to contend with a potent Jackrabbit offense. 

SDSU has a scoring average of 51.5 points a game, a mark that’s good enough for second in the FCS. The Jacks boast the eighth-ranked passing attack (326.8 yards a game) and 13th-ranked running game (252.5 yards a game) in the FCS

“[The Jacks] do a nice job running the ball,” Pelini said. “… They have a good understanding of what they want to do and the binds they want to put you in. [As a defense] you have to be on point.”

Kickoff is 2 p.m. Oct. 13 in Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium. The game will be televised on MidcoSN, Jackrabbit All-Access and ESPN+.