The South Dakota State football team wound up their spring practices with the annual Jackrabbit spring football game April 23 at the Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex.
SDSU Head Coach John Stiegelmeier was impressed with his team’s work in the 14 spring practices they had leading into the game.
“We’ve had a great three weeks,” Stiegelmeier said when talking to First and Goal, a video series produced by the SDSU athletic department to give updates on Spring football. “Great effort and intensity, considering we started at 6:40 a.m. every day.”
Freshman quarterback Kanin Nelson threw for two touchdowns and ran for another to spark the offense to a 62-47 win over the defense in the spring game. Nelson saw extra action with senior Zach Lujan sitting out as he recovers from injuries.
A Mitchell, South Dakota native, Nelson completed a 6-yard touchdown pass to Alex Wilde in the first quarter and ran for a 23-yard score in the second quarter. On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Nelson hooked up with Marquise Lewis on a 45-yard touchdown.
Using a scoring system that rewarded big plays on both sides of the ball, the Jackrabbit offense took an early lead during the second series of the game. Sophomore runningback Isaac Wallace broke through the line for a 50-yard touchdown for a 7-0 lead.
The first-team offense got into the scoring column late in the second quarter as Taryn Christion found Dallas Goedert in the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown.
Christion and Goedert were two players whose improvement throughout the spring caught Stiegelmeier’s attention, although he admitted spring performances tend to fluctuate.
“It is so hard in football to say one guy excelled,” Steigelmeier said. “You’ll have a guy shine one day, and the next you’ll hardly notice him.”
Mikey Daniel capped the touchdown scoring for the offense with a 2-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter.
The Jackrabbit defense was able to force only one turnover as defensive end Jared Blum sacked Christion and stripped the football loose midway through the third quarter. Christian Banasiak recorded a pair of sacks, with Eric Kleinschmit and Cole Langer each tallying one sack.
Redshirt freshman Brandon Thomas led all players with 10 tackles, followed by eight from Dalton Cox.
Nelson finished the game 8-of-12 passing for 98 yards, with Christion completing 7-of-15 attempts for 44 yards. Marquise Lewis led the receiving corps with six catches for 72 yards.
Wallace led the ground game with 67 yards on eight carries. Nelson carried nine times for 57 yards, with Clark Wieneke adding 47 yards on 10 carries.
The Jackrabbits will open fall practices in early August, with the 2016 season opener set for Sept. 3 at Texas Christian. TCU has been one of the top ranked teams in the FBS since they moved to the Big XII, so the Jacks will be giving up size and strength at many positions in their season opener. But Stiegelmeier knows his team has been putting in the work and that they will be ready to lay it on the line in Fort Worth in August.
“Prior to spring ball, the strength coach said the effort in the weight room had been the best it’s ever been,” Steigelmeier told First and Goal. “And that’s really the prerequisite, that’s the start of all this. So I think effort is really in our makeup.”