Jacks defense to be tested against Montana

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No. 4 South Dakota State will face a tougher test as they travel to Bozeman, Montana to take on Montana State at Bobcat Stadium after defeating Duquesne 51-13 last week at home.

The Bobcats are coming off a 31-0 loss against the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) No. 20 ranked Washington State Cougars. Washington State only allowed the Bobcats to gain 143 yards in total offense.

SDSU Head Coach John Stiegelmeier doesn’t expect the Jackrabbits to limit the Bobcats as much as the Cougars did.

“We are not Washington State, we would have to play perfect to hold them to those numbers,” Stiegelmeier said. “But we expect our defense to limit the big plays.”

The Jackrabbits held the Dukes to 259 yards last week and held star sophomore running back A.J Hines to just 34 yards. Their run defense will be tested again this week since the Bobcat’s offense features a triple-option attack that the Jacks had issues with in the past. Last season, the Jackrabbits fell to Cal Poly 38-31 as they racked up 601 yards using the option.

“Offensively, their [Montana State’s] quarterback and the run option, there’s always an option he will carry the ball. First time we will travel and that concerns me a bit as we got a lot of young guys,” Stiegelmeier said. “Their defense is good and they approached Washington State totally different than they will approach us.”

Montana State sophomore quarterback Chris Murray, leads the option and he racked up 55 yards rushing against Washington State – a team high. Murray was a freshman All-American last season and was the Big Sky freshman of the year.

“He’s a great player, he is shifty, a winner and very tough, you can’t discourage him on defense,” Stiegelmeier said.

Senior linebacker Mac Bignell leads the Bobcats on defense as he was selected onto the pre-season STATS FCS All-American team.  Against the Cougars, Bignell recorded nine tackles and a sack with two tackles for a loss.

“You don’t shut guys like that down, maybe we will get him blocked half the time,” Stiegelmeier said. “You can’t dedicate two linemen to a linebacker though.”

For the Jackrabbits, injuries have already made an impact on their season as Tyler Weir, the junior right tackle will be out for this week’s game. Sophomore Evan Greeneway will take over Weirs’ position.

In other injury news, Stiegelmeier said he expects senior tight end Dallas Goedert to make more of an impact this week since he was held out of most snaps due to an ankle injury last week. 

It is possible that the air quality could hinder the game even though the air forecast doesn’t show any damaging effects from the wildfires in Eastern Montana right now. But that could change quickly. The Jacks haven’t prepared for the poor air quality.

“We would be in the same environment as Montana State and we have never played in that type of weather so it would be pretty tough to prepare for that,” Stiegelmeier said.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Central Time. The game will broadcast on ESPN3 and will air on 570 AM WNAX.