South Dakota State’s John Stiegelmeier on Southeastern Louisiana Win, Nebraska Match-up
My how things change.
Three seasons ago, when South Dakota State came to Nebraska for the first time in 50 years, the Jackrabbits were in the midst of one of their worst starts ever, 0-3 coming in, 0-4 when they left, after a 17-3 defeat to the Cornhuskers. SDSU eventually finished that season, and the 2011 season, 5-6.
Now, the Jacks are flying high, after a school record nine wins, and home playoff victory, last season, South Dakota State is #6 in the FCS, and looking for its first ever 4-0 start as a Division I program.
The most recent win came last Saturday at home against Southeastern Louisiana, a team head coach John Stiegelmeier told me was the most improved team he'd seen from one year to the next. The Lions proved it jumping out to a 10-0 lead after the first quarter:
But from there, the night belonged to the Jackrabbit defense, who forced six SLU turnovers (4 interceptions, 2 fumbles). Those coupled with just four SDSU penalties for the second straight game, are a recipe for success for any team:
Offensively, SDSU got its usual spark from running back Zach Zenner. The junior maintained his status as the top rusher in the FCS with a 128-yard night and three touchdowns, one which came on a 75-yard run. It's the exact kind of run Zenner is capable of breaking off on any carry:
Now the Jackrabbits try to carry that momentum in Lincoln, where they were very competitive in 2010. And while the Memorial Stadium atmosphere is one of the most memorable in all of college football, coach Stiegelmeier isn't getting caught up in ambiance or anything that doesn't directly relate to the task at hand - winning a football game against a very good team:
You'd be hard pressed to find a team with more off the field issues than the Conrhuskers this week. Bo Pelini's team blew a 21-3 lead at home against UCLA last Saturday, allowing 38 straight points to the Bruins. To make matters worse, Pelini has been spending most of this week apologizing for a 2011 audio rant against some Nebraska fans, that was released Monday.
Despite all of that, coach Stiegelmeier says Nebraska's state of mind doesn't enter into his game planning for the Cornhuskers:
Adding to the uncertainty for Nebraska is the status of quarterback senior Taylor Martinez, who injured his toe in Saturday's loss, meaning senior Ron Kellogg III or redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong Jr. could start against the Jackrabbits. But SDSU is still game planning for the Huskers #1 signal caller:
Despite being 24 1/2 point underdogs, a win obviously is the ultimate goal for the Jackrabbits Saturday, but so is getting ready for the beginning of their Missouri Valley Conference schedule a week from Saturday:
One area where SDSU is looking to improve is the beginning of games. This season, the Jacks have been outscored 24-21 in the first quarter, but have dominated in the second, holding a 38-3 scoring advantage:
Kickoff at Memorial Stadium is 2:30pm Saturday. You can listen to the game live on ESPN 99.1.