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‘We’re looking forward to the rematch,’: Jacks host Duquesne on Saturday

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‘We’re looking forward to the rematch,’: Jacks host Duquesne on Saturday

MIRANDA SAMPSON

MIRANDA SAMPSON

MIRANDA SAMPSON

MIRANDA SAMPSON

Landon Dierks

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Second round Football Championship Subdivision playoff matchups are set and South Dakota State will host a familiar foe — Duquesne University of the Northeast Conference.

SDSU blew out the Dukes 51-13 in its opening game of the 2017 season and will look to duplicate that result and reach the quarterfinal round of the FCS playoffs for the third consecutive year.

“We were lucky enough to win that game (last season),” SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said. “We’re looking forward to the rematch.”

As a result of earning the fifth seed in the playoffs, SDSU had a bye in the FCS First Round, while Duquesne stunned Towson 31-10 to set up a rematch with the Jacks. After falling behind 10-0, the Dukes scored 31 unanswered points, 28 of which came in the second half.

The Dukes relied heavily on junior running back A.J. Hines to get them through the first round. The talented tailback rushed for 175 yards and a touchdown and caught a 71-yard touchdown in a victory over the favored Towson.

Hines rushed for 1,499 yards in 11 games this season, scoring 15 touchdowns on the ground and catching two more.

South Dakota State has put an emphasis this week to slow down Hines.

“He’s a great player,” Stiegelmeier said. “[Duquesne] needed him to rise up against Towson and he did in a big way … He was a dominant runner.”

SDSU’s defense held the Dukes’ lead rusher to a season-low 36 yards in last season’s game and will look to have a repeat performance against the talented tailback this time around.

It’s not just the rushing attack that the Dukes excel at.

The Dukes also have a 1,000-yard receiver in senior Nehari Crawford. In addition to his 1,017 yards, he has scored 10 receiving touchdowns.

Moving the football was hardly an issue for the Jackrabbits against Duquesne in the teams’ last meeting.

Senior quarterback Taryn Christion dominated the Dukes’ with 254 yards and five touchdowns through the air and 96 yards on the ground.

In what could be his final game in a Jackrabbit uniform, Christion will be expected to lead the third-highest scoring offense in the FCS and extend his career by at least one more game.

Christion and the offense are peaking at the right time.

After scoring only nine points in a road loss to Northern Iowa on Oct. 20, the Jackrabbits have lit up the scoreboard. SDSU has won four consecutive contests and scored at least 38 points in each of them.

A big reason for this late-season resurgence is the play of redshirt freshman running back and the Missouri Valley Football Conference Freshman of the Year, Pierre Strong Jr.

Strong Jr. carried the ball just 22 times through the first six games of this season, but multiple injuries in the backfield have allowed the Little Rock, Arkansas native to see his role increased in the high-powered offense.

Over the last three games of the season, Strong Jr. ran for 577 yards, averaging more than 14.4 yards a carry and found the end zone eight times.

There is still work to be done for the Jackrabbits, and Stiegelmeier knows his team will have to keep up its high level of play to advance further into postseason play.

“Our season ended in the semifinals last year and the senior class challenged us because that wasn’t good enough,” Stiegelmeier said. “We surely have to remember it’s one-and-done. You have to win to keep playing.”

ABOUT THE GAME
WHO: Duquesne Dukes (9-3) at No. 4 South Dakota State Jackrabbits (8-2)
WHEN: 2 p.m. start on Saturday
WHERE: Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium, Brookings
COACHES: John Stiegelmeier is in his 22nd season at SDSU with a record of 156-99; (Jerry Schmitt is 92-61 in his 14th season at Duquesne.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: The winner earns a spot in the FCS quarterfinals against the winner of the Wofford and Kennesaw State matchup.
WHERE TO WATCH: The game will be televised on ESPN3. Live tweets will also be available at @CollegianSports.

 

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‘We’re looking forward to the rematch,’: Jacks host Duquesne on Saturday