South Dakota State Beats #2 Illinois State to Move Back Into Top Five, Plays at South Dakota Saturday
With two games to play in the 2015 Missouri Valley Football Conference schedule, the South Dakota State Jackrabbits are trying to put the finishing touches on what could be a historic season.
If they can run the table and finish the season 9-2, South Dakota State will all but ensure themselves a Top Eight seed in the post season, and the first round bye that comes with it.
The win over the Redbirds was far from easy.
The Jackrabbits (7-2/4-2) turned the ball over three times, converted just three times in 14 attempts on third down, missed three point-after conversion attempts, and gave up 241 yards and three touchdowns to ISU receiver Andrew Warrum, but still found a way to grind out a win.
The SDSU defense only allowed the Redbirds to convert one of those turnovers into points, while also limiting one the of top rushers in the nation, Marshaun Corpich, to just 65 yards. The defense also forced a turnover as linebacker Jesse Bobbit picked off a pass setting up a Jackrabbit touchdown.
On special teams, Kellen Soulek blocked a field goal attempt that could have made it a one score game in the fourth quarter.
Offensively, SDSU quarterback Taryn Christion bounced back from a 3-for-10 start to complete 12 of his next 20 passes, topping the 300-yard mark thru the air for the first time in college. He threw for two touchdowns and ran for another.
Jake Wieneke had four catches for 104 yards and two scores.
The victory moved South Dakota State (#5) back into the Top Five of the STATS FCS rankings for the second time this season.
This week, it's the return of the South Dakota Showdown series, as the Jackrabbits head to the DakotaDome to battle the resurgent Coyotes, in a series that dates back to South Dakota's first year of Statehood - 1889.
USD (5-4/3-3) made it three wins in the last four games with a 34-31 come-from-behind win over Southern Illinois last weekend. South Dakota has their sights set on a first-ever Division I post season berth, and can get there with a pair of wins to end the regular season.
The Coyotes forced four Saluki turnovers in the win, while limiting quarterback Mark Iannotti to just 26 yards rushing. He had been ISU's leading ground gainer coming in, averaging 62 yards a game.
Offensively, Coyote quarterback Kyle Saeger tossed three touchdown passes for the first time in his college career, including a game-winning five-yard toss to tight end Aaron Ramsey on fourth-and-goal with 3:09 remaining. Saeger completed passes to nine different receivers on the day.
On special teams, Drew Iddings blocked a game tying field goal attempt with 46 seconds left to secure the win.
Saturday's State-U game will feature two defenses that have been among the best in the MVC over the last month. The Jacks have allowed just five touchdowns in the last five games, while the Coyotes have forced eight turnovers in the last three games, leading to 23 points.
Kickoff is 1:00 PM Saturday, in Vermillion. South Dakota State has won six straight against South Dakota, including all three games at the Division I level.
Here is my interview with SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier on the Illinois State win and the match-up with South Dakota Saturday afternoon: