Jacks set to travel to Kennesaw for a game of firsts




Trenton Abrego, Sports Editor

It’ll be the third year straight where the South Dakota State Jackrabbits will compete in the Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinals.

This time around, it will be a series of firsts.

The Jackrabbits will travel to Kennesaw, Georgia to take on the Owls for the first-ever meeting. It will also be the first time that the Jackrabbits will face off with a Big South Conference foe. It’ll also be the first time that a top-five team in the nation will visit Fifth Third Bank Stadium.

On paper, it looks like the chances of an offensive shootout are high. South Dakota State fields the second-best scoring offense, while Kennesaw State has the third-best offense.

Kennesaw State and the Owl’s offense has been rolling as of late.

The Owls have won 11 straight games, joining Alabama and Central Florida as the other Division-I schools who have seen 10-game winning streaks in the past two years.

But, that doesn’t begin to show how dominant the Owls have been as of late.

In those 11 straight wins, the Owls are outscoring opponents 528-149 and have allowed an average of 13.5 points per game.

On offense, Kennesaw State has run the triple option to near perfection this season, and currently have three players with 500 or more rushing yards.

Last weekend, Wofford, who the Owls defeated 13-10, held Kennesaw State to 163 total rushing yards.

“(Wofford) is an odd front, we aren’t an odd front,” Stiegelmeier said. “You can’t put in a defense and expect to have mastered it in a week … We have defended this option, we have had success at times and we have struggled at times, we feel that we got a good game plan.”

The offense is highlighted by graduate student Chandler Burks, who has been nothing short of brilliant to this point of the season. Burks leads the Owls in rushing yards (871), rushing touchdowns (29), passing touchdowns (10) and passing yards (1,031).

It isn’t just the Owls that Burks leads.

Burks leads the entire Division-I with 29 rushing touchdowns and currently has more scores on the ground than 83 percent of FCS teams.

“I would say he’s one of the grittiest, toughest guys I have seen played,” Stiegelmeier said.

But Burks isn’t the only rushing weapon on the field for the Owls.

Burks is also able to pitch it to running backs Darnell Holland and Shaquil Terry.

Holland, a senior back from Bowdon, Georgia, averages 11.9 yards per carry and has seen 72 of them. On the season, Holland has 857 rushing yards, nine touchdowns, and is third on the team with nine receptions.

Terry, a sophomore from Bessemer, Alabama, has found success on the ground with 550 yards, five touchdowns on 71 carries. Terry is also a treated like a Swiss Army knife and is routinely targeted in the passing game. Terry is the second most targeted receiver with 13 receptions.

“We aren’t going to Georgia to sightsee,

— John Stiegelmeier

Through the air, the Owls are averaging 100 yards per game.

On defense, the Owls are allowing just 14 points per game.

Anthony Gore, Jr., a senior linebacker from Statesboro, Georgia leads the Owls on defense with 73 total tackles, 15 of them for a loss and six sacks.

Kennesaw State has faced off with two ranked opponents this year and downed both of them.

On Saturday, the weather is forecasted to make a difference. The high is predicted to be 42 degrees and rainy.

“I think it will benefit them more, I think the weather we are anticipating effects the passing game more than anything and that’s not their forte,” Stiegelmeier said. “They don’t want to pass the ball, they want to pass the ball five times and win the game.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, December 8 and will be viewable on ESPN3.