No. 11 South Dakota State looks to take a step toward its first MVFC title
(STATS) - Though South Dakota State has been busy racking up individual records, the Jackrabbits are keeping their focus on an important team goal heading into the final weeks of the regular season.
No. 11 South Dakota State hopes to take another step toward making history Saturday when it hosts rival South Dakota in the South Dakota Showdown Series. The Jackrabbits (6-3, 5-1) enter the weekend tied with No. 4 North Dakota State atop the Missouri Valley Football Conference as they chase the first conference title in school history.
"We still have our goals in front of us and our goal this week is to be 1-0 and not to think about what that accomplishes down the road," SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier said. "We need to be ready for the rivalry game. We need a great crowd to help us out."
The Jackrabbits rebounded from their first league defeat - 38-21 at Illinois State - last weekend when they pulled away with a big second half for a 49-24 home win over Missouri State. Taryn Christion completed 22 of 37 passes for 324 yards and ran for 25 yards on nine carries to set the school's single-season record with 3,163 yards of total offense.
"Taryn is having a great year," Stiegelmeier said. "Our offense is having a great year. He's got some good fat guys in front of him and really good receivers. The fact that he's setting records and looking at more records is a credit to himself but also everybody doing their job."
Tight end Dallas Goedert, one of those offensive stars, had seven catches for 113 yards and a touchdown against the Bears. Jake Wieneke set the MVFC career mark for receiving yards with 3,899 after adding six receptions for 114. Goedert and Wieneke each crossed the 1,000-yard mark on the season, becoming the first Jackrabbit tandem to accomplish that feat in the same year.
SDSU, which leads the conference in total offense with 471.9 yards per game, seems likely to continue putting up big numbers against a South Dakota defense that allows a league-high 463.6 per contest.
After a promising 3-1 start in conference play, the Coyotes (4-5, 3-3) have dropped their last two games by a combined eight points. South Dakota's rally from a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit fell short in Saturday's 35-28 loss at Southern Illinois.
"We have to avoid putting ourselves into positions where we're down early in games because against the quality of teams that we play in this league, it's hard to battle back," South Dakota coach Bob Nielson said. "Obviously, for us, we have to get back on the winning track."
Quarterback Chris Streveler, a junior transfer from Minnesota, has been a bright spot. He completed 22 of 38 passes for 219 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions and also ran for 113 yards and a score against the Salukis. This, after throwing for 378 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 102 yards and a score in a 35-34 home loss to Western Illinois on Oct. 29.
"He's certainly come along here in the last few weeks," Nielson said. "I think he's had a better understanding of the offense and understands the expectations that we have of him and has become a much more consistent player."
This will be the 109th meeting, and the Jackrabbits hold a slim 51-50-7 series advantage after winning the past seven matchups. Wieneke finished with six receptions for 180 yards and Kyle Paris ran for two late touchdowns last November when SDSU rallied for 20 fourth-quarter points on the way to a 30-23 victory at South Dakota.
"Our guys certainly understand who we're playing and the importance of the game, not just for them as a football team, but also how much more interest there is around the state," Nielson said. "(The Jackrabbits are) a very good football team. They've got big playmakers on offense at every position. They're a team that we're going to have to execute at a very high level against."
AROUND THE LEAGUE=
North Dakota State (8-1, 5-1), which is seeking at least a share of its sixth consecutive MVFC title, will try to keep pace with the Jackrabbits on Saturday when it hosts Indiana State (4-6, 2-5).
No. 17 Youngstown State (6-3, 4-2) hopes to stay in the mix as it takes on visiting Southern Illinois (3-6, 1-5) this weekend, while No. 19 Western Illinois (6-3, 3-3) hosts Northern Iowa (4-5, 3-3). Illinois State (5-5, 3-4) will try to continue its push toward a playoff spot with its third straight win Saturday against visiting Missouri State (4-5, 2-4).