Gearing up for 2015


Logan Meyer Sports Reporter

Jacks hopeful to continue playoff streak

The new season for South Dakota State University’s 2015-16 football squad is approaching quickly, and they are set to begin a new era—post Zach Zenner. Zenner, who was a team captain on last year’s Jackrabbits team, is currently fighting for a roster spot in the NFL with the Detroit Lions. Other key losses include another team captain in quarterback Austin Sumner, and Jason Schneider, a standout wide receiver. 

John Stiegelmeier is entering his 19th season as the Jacks’ head coach and said he is very happy with the coaching situation.

“This is the best staff I’ve been around at South Dakota State. Without a doubt,” Stiegelmeier said at Fall Media Day.

After making the FCS Playoffs the last three years, the Jacks are looking to take another step this year. 

“The goal is to be a top eight seed, and we’re not gonna be shy about that,” Stiegelmeier said. “That is our goal, one play, one game at a time. Our players believe they can do that and that’s the most important thing.” 

Getting that top seeding would guarantee the Jacks a bye in the first round of the playoffs and at least one home game. But getting to that next level will take some players stepping up their production after the loss of the winningest class in SDSU history. One man who will be looked to for some of that is sophomore receiver Jake Wieneke. 

“He [Wieneke] is, I think, one of the best receivers in America, and he proved that last year,” Stiegelmeier said. 

On the defensive side of the ball, defensive tackle Cole Langer will expect to take on multiple blockers at once, opening lanes for players like middle linebacker T.J. Lalley, a four year starter, to make big plays. 

The season will begin with the Jackrabbits traveling to Lawrence, Kan. to take on the Jayhawks of Kansas University on Saturday, Sept. 5. The Jayhawks are the only FBS opponent that the Jackrabbits will see on this year’s schedule, competing out of the Big 12 Conference. 

The Jacks will then return home for a matchup with the Thunderbirds of Southern Utah. This Sept. 12 matchup is a chance for the Jackrabbits to keep the momentum going against this Big Sky Conference foe, which it beat last year by a mark of 26-6 in Cedar City, Utah. 

After a week off, the Jackrabbits will return to action Sept. 26 when they battle the Robert Morris (Pa.) Colonials in the Beef Bowl at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium. The Colonials are members of the Northeast Conference. Robert Morris has not clashed with the Jackrabbits on the football field in recent history, so this head-to-head promises to be nothing but intriguing. 

The coming of October means the beginning of a new month on the football schedule and the Jackrabbits are starting it off with a bang. Saturday, Oct. 3 the North Dakota State Bison make the trip to Coughlin-Alumni from Fargo for the annual Dakota Marker. There will almost undoubtedly be a different feel this time around, as both teams have lost starters—and that calls for new personnel. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. 

The following week features more football as the Jackrabbits compete in the team’s fourth consecutive home game of the season when it brings in the Sycamores of Indiana State on Oct. 10. The Sycamores will make it back-to-back Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC) opponents for the Jackrabbits, which will prove to be key matchups when it comes to playoff positioning. Last year, the Jacks traveled to Terre Haute to pick up the 32-17 win over the Sycamores. 

SDSU will then continue its trek down the schedule as the Jacks head east to take on Youngstown State in Youngstown, Ohio. The Penguins are set to begin their first season under new head coach Bo Pelini, the former coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Youngstown State is the third MVFC opponent on the schedule for the Jackrabbits, and is the third in a three game span. 

The Jacks will face off against University of Northern Iowa on home turf Oct. 24 for the Hobo Day game. The Panthers come to town asSouth Dakota State’s fourth MVFC opponent of the year. Last season, the Jackrabbits handed the Panthers a 31-28 loss in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The game is scheduled as a 2 p.m. kickoff at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium. 

The Missouri State Bears are the next opponent on the schedule for the Jackrabbits, as the Rabbits travel to Springfield, Mo. for another MVFC matchup on  Oct. 31. Missouri State was handed a loss by the Jackrabbits in the sixth week of last season by a score of 32-28. 

The Jackrabbits begin the month of November by saying farewell to Coughlin-Alumni Stadium, which may prove to be a sentimental moment to many. South Dakota State will play its last home game in front of the originally structured Coughlin-Alumni Stadium bleachers against Illinois State on Nov. 7th —

another MVFC foe. Going back to last season, the Redbirds handed the Jackrabbits their worst defeat of the season, beating SDSU 45-10. Kickoff for the final home game of 2015 is scheduled for 2 p.m.

The Jackrabbits hit the road for Week 10 traveling to Vermillion, where they will take on their intrastate rivals at the University of South Dakota. This battle at the DakotaDome is scheduled for a 1 p.m. kickoff on Nov. 14.

Last year saw the Jackrabbits hand the Coyotes a large defeat by a score of 37-14. The Jackrabbits look to keep the momentum going against the Coyotes team that has dropped the last three meetings between the two. 

To round out the 2015-16 regular season schedule for the South Dakota State Jackrabbits, they make the trip to Macomb, Ill. to do battle with the Leathernecks of Western Illinois. The Leathernecks are also a MVFC opponent, seeing as the Jacks play their eighth and final MVFC game of the season. Kickoff for the season finale is slated for 1 p.m.

New faces and a familiar coaching staff make this upcoming season of Jackrabbit football another to be excited about.