It’s a big week for Jackrabbits on campus and that’s the case for the football team as well.
Off a disheartening loss on the road to Northern Iowa, the SDSU football team will try to turn it around with a win on the 100th anniversary of Hobo Day Saturday against Youngstown State.
Previously 5-1 on the year, the Jackrabbits’ definitive loss to the struggling Panthers proved to be a wakeup call for SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier’s team.
“I was certain that our guys were deflated. They were down,” he said, adding that his team was ready to bounce back quickly. “They were ready to tackle it … We don’t want guys to dwell on it for a week and we want our whole football team to be that way.”
It’s not like their opponent, Youngstown State, is exactly riding a hot streak into Brookings. After starting 4-0, defeating Pittsburgh out of the Big East in the opening week and rising to No. 3 in the national polls, the Penguins have had three straight losses in the Missouri Valley and are fighting to keep their own playoff hopes alive.
YSU head coach Eric Wolford attributed the slide to turnover issues. The Penguins turned the ball over four times last week in the fourth quarter alone in a 38-21 loss to Southern Illinois.
“The first four games we were doing a really good job of taking care of the football,” Wolford said. “You can’t give the ball away. You can’t give the other team points. We’ve addressed it and we’ve talked about it and I feel pretty confident that we have corrected.”
The Jackrabbits will likely try to get back to getting the ball to running back Zach Zenner, who has maintained his lead as the leading rusher in the Football Championship Subdivision. Zenner still has amassed 1360 yards in seven games but was slowed by UNI’s ability to hang on and tackle Zenner.
“The offense runs through him,” Wolford said. “He’s obviously a very good running back. Statistically, he’s been outstanding, very strong runner, very physical and he’s a guy that you have to know where he is. In just about every game, he’s been able to break off some big runs and that’s obvious when you’re looking at his statistics.”
Youngstown State (4-3, 1-3) is led by quarterback Kurt Hess, who is one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the conference and running back Jamaine Cook. Cook is the conference’s leader in touchdowns scored with 11 on the season.
“They’re going to put some pressure on us as an offense and we need to put some pressure on their defense,” Stiegelmeier said. “Whether we can do that or not, I don’t know but it’s a good football team.”
The Jackrabbits have had recent Hobo Day success against the Penguins, winning the 2010 edition of the game with a 185-yard performance by running back Kyle Minett as SDSU won 30-20. Youngstown State has not defeated SDSU in the four meetings since the Jacks went to Division I.