Jackrabbits Find Depth on the Ground at Spring Game
For the last three seasons, when a South Dakota State offense ran for more than 250 yards in a game, you figured All-American running back Zach Zenner would have accounted for much of that total.
But with Zenner, and his back-to-back 2,000+ yard seasons, on the sidelines Saturday in Brookings, the guys who hope to follow him in the Jackrabbit backfield in the years to come, made their case in a strong way.
With Zenner sitting to avoid injury, redshirt freshman Brady Mengarelli carried the load, rushing 14 times for 105 yards and three first-half touchdowns, as the offense beat the defense 58-49.
In the second half, the ball carrying duties passed to Reggie Gandy, Zenner’s back-uo last season, and another redshirt freshman, Bridgeport Tusler, and they picked up right where Mengarelli left off. Gandy ran nine times for 74 yards and a score, while Tusler added 81 yards (50 on one play) on 14 carries.
SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier told me he liked what he saw from the running game:
There were also new faces at quarterback Saturday, as starter Austin Sumner did not play. Instead it was junior Tyler Finnes and redshirt freshman Dalton Douglas running the show. Finnes completed 19-of-34 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown while Douglas was 8-of-14 for 91 yards and a score. The two also combined to throw a trio of interceptions.
Their head coach had a couple of key words to describe their performance:
On the receiving end of a majority of those passes were Jason Schneider, who led the team with 78 catches, 10 touchdowns, and more than 1,000 yards last year, as well as Dom Wright and Connor Landberg, who each had just one catch a piece last season.
Stiegelmeier says he was encouraged by what he saw:
All of that offensive success came at the expense of the Jackrabbit defense, who was down just one starter for the game Saturday. SDSU was led by safety Melvin Tavares with 11 total tackles, including three for loss. Shayne Gottlob added eight tackles. The Jackrabbit defense also forced four turnovers – interceptions by Chris Balster, Nick Farina and T.J. Lally, and a fumble recovery by Jesse Bobbit.
Overall, coach Stiegelmeier says the defense was not as its best:
With most of the number one spots on the roster already set with three Spring workouts, Stiegelmeier says there’s still a lot of jockeying for the number two and three spots and a place on the fall roster:
As for the timetable after Spring workouts conclude this week, Stiegelmeier says there’s plenty of work to do between now and the beginning of the school year:
South Dakota State opens the 2014 season at Missouri, August 30th. The home opener is September 6th against Cal Poly.