Football handles Robert Morris, begins preparation for Bison

LOGAN MEYER Sports Reporter

The last couple years have brought many firsts for the South Dakota State University football program, and the 2015 season is proving to be no different. Four weeks into the 2015 regular season and this year’s Jackrabbit squad has already done something no other SDSU football team has done before—crack the top five in the STATS FCS Top 25 media poll. In the FCS Coaches’ Poll, the Jacks did not budge one way or the other, remaining at seventh. 

However, while all those numbers seem fine and dandy, the Jackrabbits are going ears up and nose to the grindstone this week as they prepare for the Bison of North Dakota State on Saturday. Head Coach John Stiegelmeier addressed this less than a minute into his postgame press conference after defeating Robert Morris 34-10.

“Bottom line is we won, we’re 3-0 and we’re looking forward to watching this film, getting better and moving on,” Stiegelmeier said. 

Coming into Saturday, South Dakota State and Robert Morris have never before met on the gridiron. 

Offensively, South Dakota State picked apart the Robert Morris defense primarily through the air attack, posting 395 total passing yards to the Colonials’ 43. Junior quarterback Zach Lujan turned in a monster day, as did sophomore wide receiver Jake Wieneke. 

The scoring opened with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Lujan to wideout Wieneke, which put Wieneke fourth in program history for career touchdown grabs (21). The first quarter of action ended with the Jackrabbits leading by a slim margin of 7-0. 

In the second quarter, the Colonials had possession and were able to convert a 46-yard field goal by Connor Shennan on the drive, which brought the score to 7-3. The Jackrabbits followed up the Robert Morris score with another of their own, this time capping a 10-play, 75-yard drive with a 3-yard rush by freshman Isaac Wallace. The touchdown made the score 14-3, and little did the Jackrabbits know that would turn out to be all the offense they would need. Robert Morris quarterback Matthew Barr took an option play 54 yards down to the Jackrabbit 3 yard-line before tossing a 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Nic Lamica, making it 14-10 in favor of SDSU with 7:16 left in the first half. South Dakota State was then feeling a little too close for comfort, and managed to notch two field goals, both coming via kicker Jay Carlson, giving the Jacks a 20-10 lead at the half. 

The Jackrabbits used a sound defensive performance to hold the Colonials to zero second-half points, and only gave up 85 yards of total offense in the final two frames. Junior linebacker Jesse Bobbit led the Jackrabbits in total tackles, finishing the game with 11. One of the bigger plays of the game, a mid-third quarter diving interception by senior defensive back Jimmie Forsythe set the tone for the Jackrabbit defense the rest of the way. 

With less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter, Lujan found senior wideout Brandon Andrews for a 13-yard score that pushed the SDSU lead to 27-10. That score, which proved to be the lone score of the third quarter, was enough to extend South Dakota State’s consecutive scoring streak to all 11 quarters played this season. 

The Jackrabbits wasted no time to get going offensively in the final quarter, with Lujan connecting again with Wieneke, who displayed nothing short of wizardry as he scampered his way into the end zone to put up the final tally of the ballgame. The strike from Lujan to Wieneke was a 29-yard completion, with about 20 of those yards coming after the catch. 

By the conclusion of the game, Wieneke moved into eighth in career receiving yards in program history, and he also recorded his 10th career 100-yard receiving game.

Wieneke’s final line read seven receptions for 163 yards and two TDs.  

Also worth noting, Lujan’s 395-passing yards against Robert Morris ties Austin Sumner (395 vs. USD in 2014) for the second-most in a game by a Jackrabbit quarterback. Lujan’s final line: 25 completions on 43 attempts for 395 yards and  three TDs and two interceptions. 

With a tough upcoming matchup against North Dakota State on Saturday at 6 p.m., fans will soon see if South Dakota State is finally ready to establish itself as one of the FCS elites.