South Dakota State Preview: #13 Jackrabbits at Missouri State
Life in the Missouri Valley Conference means you are going to take your lumps along the way. But, when your wounds are mainly of the self-inflicted variety, those setbacks are especially bitter.
South Dakota State, once as high as fourth in the FCS Polls, knows that all too well.
The now 13th ranked Jackrabbits (4-2/1-2 MVFC) are reeling after a second bad defeat in the first three weeks of the conference schedule.
Two weeks after letting Youngstown State run the ball at will against them, with the Penguins holding it for more than 45 minutes, SDSU committed a trio of early turnovers (two on special teams) against Northern Iowa last Saturday (October 14), falling behind 17-0, en route to a 20-point loss.
The Jackrabbits try to put all of that behind them this weekend (October 21), when they play at Missouri State.
The Bears (1-5/0-3) are one of two winless teams (Indiana State) in league play so far in 2017 after averaging just 20 points per game (9th of 10 MVFC teams) while allowing a conference worst 41 points per game.
Missouri State does have a little momentum offensively, coming off its best rushing performance of the year - a 216 yard day against Western Illinois.
Running back Calan Crowder leads the option attack with seven yards per carry so far this season. The Bears have been fortunate to only lose four fumbles this season after putting the ball on the ground 11 times in six games.
Sophomore quarterback Peyton Huslig hasn't been as lucky. He's thrown eight interceptions against just four touchdown passes.
When the ball is in the air, it's likely heading to wide receiver Malik Earl, who has one-third of the Bears' receptions this season.
Defensively, lineman Colby Isbell is one of the best in the Valley. He has three sacks so far and has recorded 7.5 tackles for loss.
In the secondary, Jared Beshore has three interceptions.
One of the keys for South Dakota State's special teams Saturday will be keeping the ball out of the hands of Deoin Holliman. He's in the top ten in the nation in kick returns.
Kickoff is 2:00 PM in Springfield, Saturday.
The Jackrabbits special teams had an uncharacteristic meltdown in last weekend's loss to Northern Iowa. SDSU fumbled a punt, fumbled a kickoff, endured bad snaps, committed costly penalties, missed an extra point and a 25-yard field goal, all in the first half, falling behind 17-0 before losing 38-18.
That early three score deficit forced the Jackrabbits to be one dimensional over the final three quarters and the offense struggled, converting on just 3-of 12 third down attempts, and completing just 40 percent of their passes.
The SDSU defense endured an onslaught of Panther running plays, 60 in all for 218 yards.
I talked with Jackrabbit head coach John Stiegelemeier about the Northern Iowa loss and this week's match-up with Missouri State: