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

The Collegian

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

The Collegian

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

The Collegian

Jackrabbit football ready to run past Redbird defense in Normal, IL


Since losing twice on the road this season, the Jacks look to change their fortunes in Normal, Illinois where they take on the No. 11 Illinois State Redbirds.

Illinois State (5-2, 2-2) will be coming off 28-14 loss to the No. 1 North Dakota State Bison 28-14.

The Jacks (4-2, 2-2) will have to improve from last week on offense if they are going to contend with a top-level Redbirds defense.

During the loss against Northern Iowa, the Jacks were unable to find the end zone, despite completing the day with 50 more yards than the Panthers.

It wasn’t just the inability to finish ­­­drives — the running game stalled out and the Jacks earned 51 yards on 20 carries. In their first game without fifth-year running back Isaac Wallace, the Jacks’ ground game was unable to get things rolling. The Jacks were also without freshman standout C.J. Wilson, but according to head coach John Stiegelmeier, he should be back for the game against the Redbirds.

The offensive struggle against the Panthers doesn’t have Stiegelmeier worried.

“We were the best offense by far in the conference,” Stiegelmeier said. “One game doesn’t make us a bad offense.”

A look at the Redbirds

The Redbirds possess one of the best defenses in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

Illinois State ranks as the best total defense (290 yards allowed per game), second-best rushing defense (112 yards per game) and the best passing defense (178 yards per game).

Despite having one of the most stout running defenses in the MVFC, the game plan for Stiegelmeier and the Jacks won’t change, and ball security for senior SDSU quarterback Taryn Christion will be extremely important.

“Yeah, we want to run the football, we will do everything we can to run the football and I think we will have success running the football,” Stiegelmeier said.

Against the pass, junior defensive back Luther Kirk and linebacker Ty DeForest have caused headaches against opposing quarterbacks and have five combined interceptions. As a team, the Redbirds have 10 interceptions, which is the second highest mark in the MVFC.

Results for Taryn Christion against Illinois State have been mixed throughout his career. Christion owns a 2-1 record with the loss coming in Normal in 2016. Christion has thrown seven interceptions — a career-high against an opponent. Christion has also thrown six touchdowns and run for three.

For the Jacks to have offensive success on the ground, they will have to attack the rushing defense led by senior linebacker Zackary Mathews, who has 63 total tackles and a sack.

However, it’s not only the defense that stands out for the Redbirds.

Offensively, Illinois State runs the ball frequently with junior halfback James Robinson, who has rushed for 911 yards and a touchdown. Robinson has also contributed a receiving touchdown.  

Robinson is atop many different offensive categories in the MVFC and has the second-most rushing yards (911) — that figure is also good for fifth-best in all of FCS. Robinson also leads the MVFC in all-purpose yards (147 yards per game).

“You better wrap up and grab flesh, not cloth, but flesh,” Stiegelmeier said. “Because he’s 220 pounds but he runs like he’s 110.”

It’s not just Robinson that the Jacks will have to worry about.

Markel Smith, another junior running back, has caused troubles for opposing defenses to this point. Smith has run for 67 yards per game with three touchdowns on the year.

Junior quarterback Brady Davis beat out senior Jake Kolbe in the offseason and hasn’t looked back. Davis has thrown for 1,381 yards, 15 touchdowns and three interceptions.

Robinson’s favorite target is senior wideout Spencer Schnell, who has the most receptions per game (5.4) in the MVFC. Schnell has caught six touchdowns this season.

South Dakota State Injuries

Wes Genant and Tyler Weir are going to be out for longer than previously assumed.

“It doesn’t sound good for the two starting lineman [Weir and Genant],” Stiegelmeier said.

Redshirt freshman Aron Johnson will get the nod at right tackle, with sophomores Evan Greeneway starting at right guard and Edward Miller starting at left tackle.

Wilson was held out of the lineup and Pierre Strong Jr. wasn’t 100 hundred percent healthy, according to Stiegelmeier.

“Ideally, he [Wilson] will be healthy or full speed,” Stiegelmeier said.

The game will be televised at noon on Oct. 27 and will be viewable on ESPN3.

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