Jacks crush T-Birds

LOGAN MEYER Sports Reporter

Mengarelli, Wieneke shine as Jacks cruise in home opener 

In the seventh meeting between SDSU and Southern Utah University, which dates back to when both schools became charter members of the Great West Football Conference in 2004, the Jackrabbits improved to 6-1 after a convincing 55-10 victory against the Thunderbirds. In addition, the Jacks have now won the last six consecutive matchups between the two teams. Last season, the Jacks tallied a 26-6 victory at Southern Utah behind a strong showing from the SDSU defense—and Saturday’s matchup featured much of the same. 

Coming off of a big win at Kansas, Head Coach John Stiegelmeier was asked if his team would experience any sort of “hangover” coming into Saturday’s contest with Southern Utah. “The leadership of our football team will not allow that to happen,” Stiegelmeier said. Turns out, he knows his team quite well.

The opening quarter began with a Jackrabbit drive in which they marched straight down the field to set up a 29- yard field goal attempt for Jay Carlson which was unsuccessful, and the Jacks were not able to take advantage of great field position.  

The Thunderbirds followed up with a hasty drive down the field and wasted no time putting up the first tally of the game, scoring on a nine-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Ammon Olsen to receiver Brady Measom, and the score read 7-0 Southern Utah. On the following drive, the Jackrabbits used a combination of penalties to set up a 40-yard field goal attempt, again by Carlson, which this time was converted and brought the Jackrabbits within four. At the conclusion of the first quarter, the score read 7-3 in favor of SUU. 

The first quarter score by the Thunderbirds would prove to be the majority of their scoring, however, as the Jackrabbits responded by putting up 48 unanswered points and stymied the Southern Utah offense for most of the contest. 

The Jackrabbit defense was the bright spot for SDSU, allowing only 10 points to the Thunderbirds—including an interception and return of 16 yards by Cody Hazelett that put the Jackrabbits in Thunderbird territory with under a minute to play in the first half. Alongside the interception he recorded in the first half, Hazelett also added a squib-kick recovery to his resume in the second half. Hazelett, who was present at the postgame press conference, talked about how the defense responded after the first quick strike by Southern Utah. “We regrouped on the sideline—we adjusted, we were ready for it and we came out and stopped them,” Hazelett said. 

Highlighting the offensive side of the ball for the Jackrabbits was sophomore wideout Jake Wieneke, who recorded the fourth highest single-game receiving yardage total in program history, moving ahead of Nate Millerbernd (who recorded 202 receiving yards back in 1996) with 205 yards on 11 receptions, two for touchdowns.  Additionally, Wieneke recorded the highest single-game receiving yardage total in Coughlin-Alumni history in its final year of existence. At the half, Wieneke led all receivers with 144 yards on five receptions and a touchdown. When asked postgame about the man-to-man matchups he faced against Southern Utah, Wieneke was not shy. “I just know I have to make a play whenever it’s man-to-man—I have to capitalize.”

Sophomore running back Brady Mengarelli also had himself quite a day, stuffing the stat sheet with 143 yards rushing on 17 carries, and crossing the goal line three times for scores as the Jackrabbit offense continued to steamroll the Thunderbird defense. Mengarelli was very excited about his performance postgame, but he began by giving credit where credit is due. “It starts with the five guys up front,” Mengarelli said. “It was just wide open all day—I didn’t do anything special. I just ran.” 

Under center for the Jacks was Alaska-native Zach Lujan, who is now 7-2 as a starter for SDSU after spending much of last season filling in for Austin Sumner. Lujan recorded 314 yards and two scores through the air, and was 19 of 27 on passing attempts. Both tight end Dallas Goedert and wide receiver Trevor Wesley had noteworthy performances as well, totaling 155 yards receiving between the two. Quarterback Dalton Douglas, a sophomore from Redlands, California, saw some late-game reps under center for the Jacks, coming in midway through the final frame in relief of Lujan. Douglas made the most of his opportunity, launching a 77-yard bomb to Dallas Goedert that realistically put the game out of reach. 

As for Coach Stiegelmeier, he showed nothing but optimism at the postgame press conference—and thought the new stadium was pretty neat as well. “What a treat to be in the new stadium,” Stiegelmeier said. He continued on to praise the Jackrabbit faithful. “How about the students… Unbelievable,” the SDSU head coach said. “I’d love to go up and shake every one of their hands, because they make a difference.”

Not surprisingly, the unfinished Coughlin-Alumni got fairly loud—thanks to the 13,423 fans in attendance. Stiegelmeier also elaborated on how his team uncharacteristically played more man-to-man defense, but it sure seemed to work out for his squad. Stiegelmeier explained his plans for the upcoming bye-week, hoping that some of his players will get to return home to see their families. 

Following their win on Saturday, the Jackrabbits again moved up in the FCS Coaches’ Poll, this time to eighth, while also receiving two first-place votes. The Jackrabbits will be back home on September 26th following the bye-week to host Robert Morris, with kickoff slated for 5 p.m.