The Too Much TV podcast goes international this week, catching up with former South Dakota State defensive assistant Jay Bubak. Not only did he get out of coaching in order to spend more time with his wife and five kids he got out of the country, helping starting a popcorn operation in Kazakhstan. Seriously.
The fall/winter overlap is dead. That means more hoops coverage coming your way. Tonight I’ll have live coverage from SDSU at Minnesota in men’s hoops. Then it’s back to Brookings on Wednesday for the SDSU women vs. No. 12-ranked Penn State:
The Green Bay club that South Dakota State beat on the road Saturday had been 6-0 and ranked No. 2 in the women’s mid-major poll. The Jackrabbits are getting very familiar with that list. They’ve already played No. 3 BYU and No. 11 Florida Gulf Coast and have games coming up with No. 19 Central Michigan and No. 21 Arkansas-Little Rock. SDSU fell out of the top 25 last week.
What does SDSU men’s basketball coach Scott Nagy think about Oral Roberts re-joining the Summit League next year? "It’s good for the league," he said. "No. 1 just to add a team is good. No. 2 we know Oral Roberts is good. They’re serious about basketball. It was teams like them and Oakland that forced us to get better. When you add established programs like that it’s good for our league. Hopefully we can add another. "And that’s two more non-conference games we don’t have to schedule."
The news that coach Craig Bohl would be leaving the North Dakota State football program broke just as the Jacks were boarding a plane home from Eastern Washington on Saturday night. SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier knows Bohl well having worked with him at Wisconsin a couple decades ago. "I emailed him when I got back and congratulated him," Stiegelmeier said, "and he emailed me back and said he valued our friendship. I look forward to following his progress there and competing against the next guy at NDSU." As for how the vacancies at NDSU and the University of North Dakota might impact this recruiting season, the Jacks are hosting a double batch of recruits this weekend - probably 20-24 guys. SDSU is aiming to sign 18 in February and has six known verbals so far.
Wolters Watch: Bucks rookie point guard Nate Wolters got back in the rotation over the weekend and figures to be in line for more PT as the club continues to be ravaged by injuries. Milwaukee has four games in the next five days: Tonight at Chicago, Wednesday vs. San Antonio, Friday vs. Chicago and Saturday at Dallas. Wolters is averaging 6.9 points, 4.3 assists and 2.6 rebounds in 24.9 minutes.
Not to be confused with the season wrap - that will be coming soon. For now, here are some final notes from South Dakota State’s 41-17 loss at Eastern Washington on Saturday in Round 2 of the FCS playoffs:
The Jackrabbits were in a good position at halftime, tied at 14-14 and with momentum in light of a late score and a sandwich sack on EWU QB Vernon Adams that left the star limping. Coach John Stiegelmeier said that the message at the break was to play as if trailing. "Felt great going into halftime," linebacker R.C. Kilgore said. "These guys score a lot of points, and seeing 14 at the end of the half I had a good feeling. Team was up. Came out ready to go, just didn’t go our way."
SDSU’s first score came from No. 2 RB Reggie Gandy. It was the third game in a row and the fourth time in five games that an RB other than Zach Zenner reached the end zone for the Jacks. On a related note, EWU coach Beau Baldwin said one of his strategies for postseason success is trying to keep reps down for running backs and defensive linemen during the regular season. "I want to be great at the end of the year," he said.
SDSU junior quarterback Austin Sumner threw for 315 yards with no turnovers. It was his second 300-yard showing of the season - the other came in the opener - and the eighth in his career. As for EWU QB Vernon Adams, he was limited to a season-low 12 completions. However, five of those went for touchdowns agains no interceptions. It was the fifth time this season he’s thrown for at least five scores, bringing his season total to 51 touchdown passes. That’s the third-most in FCS history. Coming in, SDSU had allowed a total of 13 touchdown passes in 13 games while coming up with 22 interceptions.
Unusual numbers from the SDSU safeties as Andrew Brown - third on the team in tackles - wasn’t credited with any stops, while Nick Mears made a career-high nine. The senior Brown had been battling injury for weeks. Mears figures to be one of the players in the mix to take over that starting spot next season.
South Dakota Board of Regents executive director Jack Warner was at the game, traveling with SDSU as a guest of president David Chicoine. Warner worked extensively with SDSU on the most recent stage of its football stadium project. On a related note, Eastern Washington is working on a major upgrade at Roos Field that could cost in the range of $65-70M.
Ex-EWU star Bo Levi Mitchell was at the game. He’s currently a quarterback with Calgary in the CFL and the older brother of EWU receiver Cory Mitchell, who caught a fourth-quarter touchdown pass against SDSU. In other legacy news, EWU receiver Cooper Kupp - whose father and grandfather played in the NFL - broke the FCS record for most TD catches by a freshman with 20. The old mark of 19 belong to Randy Moss. (Yes, that Randy Moss.)
In outscoring SDSU 13-3 in the third quarter, the Eagles pushed their scoring edge in that frame this season to an astounding 155-50.
Jacks kicker Justin Syrovatka made 1 of 2 field goals to end up 12 of 20 for the season. That included going 4 of 10 from 30-39 yards. He missed one wide left from 34 in the first half against EWU that most on the SDSU sideline thought was good. It was hard to discern on the replay.
The Jacks would have been without TE Mitch Vejvoda - the replacement for injured starter Cam Jones - if they’d have advanced. He hurt his left foot/ankle on the second possession. That forced SDSU to move all-conference blocking tight end Vince Benedetto to the line and use Chad Strehlow as the tight end in the backfield. Meanwhile, EWU suffered at least three injuries in its secondary.
Three of eight seeded teams lost Saturday: No. 5 Maine, No. 6 McNeese State and No. 8 Montana. The Jacks have faced three of the quarterfinalists, losing to EWU and North Dakota State and beating Southeastern Louisiana. Meanwhile, the Ohio Valley Conference has more teams remaining (two) than the Missouri Valley or the Big Sky, to name two purportedly stronger leagues.
Here are some notes in advance of South Dakota State visiting Eastern Washington in the Round of 16 of the FCS playoffs Saturday. I’ll have complete live coverage from the red turf in Cheney:
As of Thursday night, the projected game-day weather is a high of 9 and a low of minus-2 with 12 mph winds. The reported kickoff temps for the EWU home playoff games since 2010: 29, 35, 31, 46, 33 and 32. Jackrabbits offensive line Trevor Greger, for one, is OK with frigid conditions. "Love the cold," he said. "We call that Fat Guy Day. We won’t sweat as much."
EWU QB Vernon Adams is in the final 3 for the Walter Payton Award. SDSU RB Zach Zenner finished sixth and leads the FCS in rushing. As recruits, neither player had any stars from the major scouting services. Zenner didn’t even have a profile.
On the injury front, SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier said that reserve LB and special teamer Blake Krings is back this week after missing the Northern Arizona game. That’s the entire report as the Jacks continue to be remarkably healthy in what’s now the longest season in school history.
The 2010 Georgia Southern squad is the most recent precedent for an unseeded team being able to make a playoff run. That year, GSU got into the postseason at 7-4, won a home game in Round 1, beat No. 2 William & Mary on the road in Round 2 and beat Wofford on the road in the quarterfinals before losing at No. 3 Delaware in the semis. That’s the last FCS team to reach the quarterfinals without the benefit of a bye.
EWU has just one pro prospect in its senior class, according to the draft database at CBSSports: DB Mario Brown. He’s ranked 80th among corners. That’s interesting because the Eagles list Brow as a junior RB. Anyway, SDSU has two seniors listed on that site: Winston Wright (No. 65 CB) and Doug Peete (No. 70 DE).
Jacks sophomore CB Je Ryan Butler isn’t really sure how he wound up taking over as the primary punt returner. There wasn’t a discussion or a meeting as far as he knows; somebody at practice just yelled for him to get back there one day. But this isn’t new to him; he handled punts in high school and with the scout team as a true freshman. In terms of his approach, Butler said that each 10 yards he can gain is like giving a first down to the offense.
Stiegelmeier on the Board of Regents approving SDSU’s proposal for a new stadium, advancing the plan on to the state: “It’s a huge day - you don’t build a stadium every six years. The numbers and the meticulous approach is (President) David Chicoine and (athletic director) Justin Sell - in their own way they’re going to leave nothing to chance. They want it done. They’re committed to getting it done and the know they don’t get that opportunity every year.”
EWU is favored by 6 points by 5dimes, up a couple points from the opening. But Massey projects that SDSU has a 53-percent chance to win with the “most likely” score being 33-31.
This marks four road games in as many weeks for SDSU. The Jacks have done that only four times before since quality home/away records began being kept in 1950. Those years and their records in those runs: 1979 (3-1), 1982 (0-4), 2003 (1-3) and 2006 (2-2).
Eagles coach Beau Baldwin doesn’t buy the contention that the red turf at EWU makes it harder to see the ball. "I’ve never asked the opposing teams and they probably wouldn’t tell me anyway," he said. "We’re used to it - we don’t think it’s any different. I don’t know that you lose the ball. The ball’s brown; I don’t know that you’d lose that any more than a team that wears green playing on green carpet." On that note, stop back here later today for a video from The Inferno, as the red turf of Roos Field is called.
Because there were too many interesting numbers in the SDSU football stadium pro forma to fit them all into today’s story …
* The cost of a ticket for a regular game in 2015 will be $20. That’ll jump to $33 by 2024. The cost of a ticket for a “demand game” - that’s one against NDSU, USD or Hobo Day - will move from $40 to $59. Ticket-revenue projections assume selling 94-percent of inventory for demand games and 45 percent for non-demand games.
* Executive suites will cost $40,000 per year with 10-year license agreements. Community suites are $30,000 per year. Loge seats began at $2,500 and club seats $750 with 2-percent adjustments per year.
* SDSU brought in $499,810 in ticket revenue from football in 2012. The projected revenue for 2016, which includes premium seating options: $3,853,540. And that’s assuming only five home games and doesn’t factor in the facility fees.
* SDSU projections figure there will be six home games in 7 of 10 years starting in 2016. Six games already are set for 2014 and 2015.
* If the total cost reaches $65M, some $12.9M of that will go to things other than the structure of the stadium. That is: design fees, a contingency allowance, furnishings, kitchen equipment, video systems, broadcast systems, telecommunication systems, security systems, scoreboards, public art, administrative costs and demolition of current structures.
* SDSU sold more tickets than available seats five times from 2010-2012, the largest number in that time being 8190 against Youngstown State in 2012. (Keep in mind that 3,474 of the 11,000 seats do not count as sellable inventory because they go to students, visiting fans, recruits, etc.)
* The current stadium has 2,725 seats for band and students. That’s expected to rise to 3,500 in the new venue. AD Justin Sell said there may be opportunities to make that number even higher on a permanent or per-game basis.
* If the bond total ends up at $39.6M, the total repayment over 25 years would be $69.1M. In that same span, SDSU has a minimum potential - that is, assuming 100 percent capacity, but with no price increases - to generate $56.3M in revenue from premium seating options.
* So far, SDSU has taken a top-down approach to pitching premium options. That is, it started by seeking buyers for suites. In the meantime, people began expressing interest in loge and club spaces - even though SDSU has yet to push those. Wednesday was just the 60th day of the campaign.
Executive director Jack Warner on Wednesday will recommend to the Board of Regents that the SDSU football stadium plans be approved and passed along to the State Legislature. The decision was indicated in the agenda for the upcoming meeting in Rapid City. Now, it’ll be up to the Regents to go along with that or not. They’ll make the decision armed with 17 pages of facts, figures, projections and trends. I’ll have more on this after a verdict is rendered Wednesday afternoon, but a few key points on the $60-65-million project: SDSU already has commitments for $19.8 million with the SDSU Foundation guaranteeing another $7.2 million; the SDSU Student Association has backed the project and is open to considering bringing to a vote a fee increase to help fund annual expenses for operating the stadium. Again, more in the Thursday edition.
The Nate Wolters Watch has slowed as Bucks regulars Brandon Knight and Luke Ridnour have gotten healthier. The rookie point guard from SDSU has taken the first two DNPs of his NBA career (although one was related to illness) and has dropped to No. 6 on the Rookie Ladder. Still, he’s averaging 7.4 points, 4.4 assists and 2.7 rebounds in 26.5 minutes per game. Milwaukee visits Boston tonight, hosts Detroit on Wednesday, visits Washington on Friday and hosts Brooklyn on Saturday.
Although known primarily as a basketball venue, the $19-million Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls will host the SDSU wrestling team on Sunday afternoon, the Jackrabbits taking on former NCAA Division II rival Augustana. The programs haven’t met since the 2003-04 season.
A reader suggested that I explain the replay rules for the FCS playoffs. Here’s part of it from the NCAA rulebook:
SECTION 5. Initiating the Replay Process Game Stop
ARTICLE 1. There are two methods to stop a game to review a ruling on the field.
a. The replay official and his crew shall review every play of a game. He may stop a game at any time before the ball is next legally put in play (Exception: Rule 12-3-5-c) whenever he believes that:
1. There is reasonable evidence to believe an error was made in the initial on-field ruling.
2. The play is reviewable.
3. The outcome of a review would have a direct, competitive impact on the game.
b. The head coach of either team may request that the game be stopped and a play be reviewed by challenging the on-field ruling.
1. A head coach initiates this challenge by taking a team timeout before the ball is next legally put in play (Exception: Rule 12-3-5-c) and informing the referee that he is challenging the ruling of the previous play. If a head coach’s challenge is successful, he retains the challenge, which he may use only once more during the game. Thus, a coach may have a total of two challenges if and only if his initial challenge is successful.FR-110 Rule 12 / insTanT RePlay
2. After a review has been completed, if the on-field ruling is reversed, that team’s timeout will not be charged.
3. After a review has been completed, and the on-field ruling is not reversed, the charged team timeout counts as one of the three permitted that team for that half or the one permitted in that extra period.
4. A head coach may not challenge a ruling in which the game was stopped and a decision has already been made by the replay official.
5. If a head coach requests a team timeout to challenge an on-field ruling and the play being challenged is not reviewable, the timeout shall count as one of the three permitted his team during that half of the game or the one permitted in that extra period.
6. A head coach may not challenge an on-field ruling if all the team’s timeouts have been used for that half or in that extra period.
Here are some final notes from South Dakota State’s 26-7 win over Northern Arizona in Round 1 of the FCS playoffs:
For the second year in a row, the Jackrabbits have tied the school record for wins. They’d hit that mark just twice (1950 and ’63) prior to this run. Also, SDSU is believed to have tied the school record for road wins in a season with five. (Locations of games are hit or miss starting in 1950.) Furthermore, this was the first road playoff win in school history.
SDSU junior Zach Zenner continues to post Nintendo numbers. In three career games against Big Sky teams, he’s rushed for 741 yards. He’s now the only player in Valley history to rush for more than 200 yards in two playoff games. His 87-yard touchdown run is a conference record for the playoffs. And his season total - the highest in the FCS at the moment - is 1,944 yards, giving him a shot to reach 2,000 for the second straight season. Only one player has done that in FCS history: Sacramento State’s Charles Roberts in 1998 and ’99. Zenner has gone for 100 yards in 12 of 13 games this season.
SDSU has given up 32 points in the last four games, holding the last three opponents to 75 yards rushing or less. It helped greatly that the Jackrabbits tallied seven sacks, their season best by three. They totaled 25 in 12 regular-season games.
SDSU was one of three road teams to win in Round 1. The others: Tennessee State (at Butler) and Furman (at South Carolina State). Of note in the Round of 16, there are three same-conference matchups: TSU at Eastern Illinois (Ohio Valley Conference), New Hampshire at Maine (Colonial Athletic Association) and Sam Houston State at Southeastern Louisiana (Southland Conference). All three are within driving distance meaning financial savings for the NCAA, which foots travel fills.
SDSU set season-lows for pass attempts (15), pass completions (4) and pass yards (56). The last in that category was the least by 100.
Jackrabbits punter Ethan Sawyer had one of the best days of his career in terms of field position. He averaged 44.6 yards over seven kicks with four being downed inside the 20 – one helped set up a safety – and two going for touchbacks. Plus, he absorbed a roughing-the-punter penalty late in the third quarter to extend a drive that eventually led to a field goal. That 20-yard make by Justin Syrovatka moved the junior into third place in school history with 35 career field goals.
SDSU linebacker T.J. Lally said that the second-quarter interception by Jack Sherlock helped fire up the defense at a time when it was starting to tire. The Jacks also got a boost when NAU quarterback Kyren Poe left the game due to numbness in his left arm. That’s because Poe is a running threat and replacement Chase Cartwright isn’t, helping SDSU “I think we kind of wore them down,” Jackrabbits DE Marshall Peugh said. “I think we made a few adjustments and we started to figure out, get comfortable with what we thought were pass keys and what we thought were run keys. We got after them.”
Looking ahead to Round 2, SDSU is ranked ahead of Eastern Washington in the Sagarin Ratings. The Jacks are No. 78 in the entire NCAA Division I field, while the Eagles are 91st. EWU is a 1-point favorite when factoring in the home-field advantage.
Here are some notes in advance of No. 13-ranked South Dakota State (8-4) facing No. 8 Northern Arizona (9-2) on Saturday in the first round of the FCS playoffs. I’ll have live coverage from the Walkup Skydome starting at 6 p.m. CT:
The Walkup Skydome seats around 10,000 in its regular configuration, but can be expanded to 12,000. Preliminary indications are that’s unlikely to be necessary because NAU has good student attendance at home games, and this contest is taking place over Thanksgiving break. Plus, Saturday night is the annual Arizona vs. Arizona State game. SDSU was allotted 500 tickets and sold about 300 of them, according to ticket manager Christi Williams. Jacks defensive coordinator Clint Brown said that he’d heard from at least 15 former players and coaches planning to attend, including former Buffalo Bills linebacker and Arizona native Danny Batten.
On the injury front, SDSU offensive lineman Josh Kage is expected to play after missing last week due to a ding incurred at South Dakota. Running back Isaac Rodriguez is questionable. Special teamer Blake Krings is out. In terms of guys already on the shelf, OL Mike Shoff, WR Brandon Andrews and WR Matt Raymond are done for the season.
SDSU has a unique travel schedule in that it’ll fly into Flagstaff this morning, but depart from Phoenix late Saturday night. That’s related to altitudes and cargo weight. Coach John Stiegelmeier said that the Jacks looked into staying outside of Flagstaff in order to avoid spending extra time in the thin air, but were unable to find a hotel that could accommodate everybody.
Coaches from more than one team have said that NAU is reminiscent of a Missouri Valley Football team in the way it relies on running the ball and defense more than the kind of all-out attack often favored in the Big Sky. Coach Jerome Souers said that worse loss of his career game in the 1996 FCS title game when he was the defensive coordinator for Montana. The opponent - Marshall - was virtually impossible to stop because of offensive balance. That influenced his strategy when taking over at NAU 16 years ago. "As long as you’re able to run and throw the ball you have some advantage," he said, "and can create some consistency." If the Lumberjacks are like a Valley team than standout running back Zach Bauman is maybe most like former UNI RB Carlos Anderson. That is, he’s not overly big, but is very shifty, often making several cuts inside a small space.
SDSU and NAU both have one FCS playoff win to their credit, the Jackrabbits hammered Eastern Illinois last year in Brookings and the Lumberjacks knocking off top-seed McNeese State on the road in 2003 - their most recent bid.
A couple of numbers that may or may not be worth tracking: NAU is 7-0 this season when scoring first. SDSU is 8-0 when scoring at least 27 points.
SDSU was tied for 7th in the final Gridiron Power Index of the regular season. NAU was No. 10. In terms of conference rankings, the Valley was tops again. However, it put only two teams into the expanded field of 24, tying its smallest number in the last 19 years. The fifth-rated Big Sky Conference advance four teams, the most in its history.
And, finally, here is the rest of the first-round schedule: Lafayette (5-6) at New Hampshire (7-4), 11 a.m., ESPN3 Furman (7-5) at South Carolina State (9-3), noon, ESPN3 Bethune-Cookman (10-2) at Coastal Carolina (10-2), noon, ESPN3 Sacred Heart (10-2) at Fordham (11-1), noon, ESPN3 Tennessee State (9-3) at Butler (9-3), noon, ESPN3 Southern Utah (8-4) at Sam Houston State (8-4), 2 p.m., ESPN3 Samford (8-4) at Jacksonville State (9-3), 7 p.m., ESPN3
While South Dakota State hasn’t faced Northern Arizona since 1985, the University of South Dakota played the Lumberjacks earlier this season. Plus, Coyotes coach Joe Glenn faced NAU on a regular basis during his days in the Big Sky Conference, lived in Arizona before returning to lead his alma mater and coached two current NAU assistants.
This week, I threw at Glenn some very open-ended questions about the L-Jacks. Here’s what he said.
On NAU in general: “They have a really good running back (Zach Bauman). That’ll be a great matchup. I watched him play in high school - he’s a Hamilton kid, the most successful high school in the state football-wise. Probably Zach (Zenner) is a little big bigger and probably more of an inside, downhill guy. Bauman is more outside.”
On the NAU passing game: “They’ve got another kid from the same high school - (Kyren) Poe. They were just getting off the ground with it when we played them. That was so long ago - the third game. "I don’t think really he had gotten in rhythem yet. I watched them out of the corner of my eye and they got better and they’ll try to get Bauman - like Zenner - in the screen game. They like to throw the intermediate 15-20 yard passes, play action."
On the NAU defense: “I think their front stands out. That’ll be another matchup - the two fronts. Because I’ve really got a lot of respect for South Dakota State’s front and I think they’re a lot the same. And the secondary’s a good matchup, too. Really evenly match teams, to be honest with you. Both of them are very good football teams.”
On the idea that NAU resembles Missouri Valley Football Conference teams: “I’d say that’s fair. They want to use Bauman. Not many other teams in that league want to bang that much so they’ll play action off of that.”
On playing in the high altitude: “Having done that at Wyoming, the whole key is to get in and get out within 24 hours - that’s what the book was. Like Virginia came and stayed in Cheyenne a couple days and they couldn’t get up to the line of scrimmage and they got pummeled.”
South Dakota State is in the FCS playoffs for the second year in a row thanks to a late-season run fueled by improved play by the defense. Jackrabbits defensive coordinator Clint Brown discusses that and the Round 1 game at Northern Arizona in this week’s Too Much TV podcast.
The fall-winter overlap will continue for at least another week:
One obvious story angle for the South Dakota State and Northern Arizona FCS playoff game is the running backs. Jackrabbits junior Zach Zenner is No. 2 in the country this season (1,695) and No. 7 on the career active list (4,209). Lumberjacks senior Zach Bauman is No. 9 this season (1,355) No. 2 on the career active list (5,031). Zenner’s take on the individual showdown? "The interesting thing about it is we’ll never even really look at each other. On film, I’ll be looking at his defense and he’ll be looking at my defense. I’m sure we’ll get a chance to wish each other good luck before the game, but other than that the focus won’t be on each other."
The 12th-place finish by SDSU junior Trent Lusignan on Saturday at the NCAA Division I men’s cross country championships was the third-best in Summit League history. Two Southern Utah runners - Jess Baumgartner and Cam Levins - finished third and fourth, respectively in 2006 and 2011. Nobody else had been in the top 50. Here’s a full replay of the race. Incredibly, there’s more running on tap as the SDSU indoor season starts Dec. 6 in Fargo.
A traveling trophy has been created for the SDSU vs. NDSU wrestling dual series: The Border Bell - a kettlebell. It will go to the winner of the first meeting between the two each season with the second dual counting in the conference standings. The Border Bell will be up for grabs for the first time at 4 p.m. Saturday at Frost Arena. That time was adjusted to allow for fans to watch the SDSU football team at 7.
Jacks baseball recruit Phil Jacobson tied an Iowa all-class record by scoring five touchdowns for Sioux City Heelan in its state championship victory last week. He also picked off two passes.
Ex-SDSU star point guard and Milwaukee Bucks rookie Nate Wolters had the first scoreless showing of his young career Saturday. He played just 9 minutes in a loss to Charlotte because Brandon Knight returned from injury as Luke Ridnour did a couple games ago. On Monday, Wolters returned to The Palace of Auburn Hills, where he and the Jacks faced Michigan in the NCAA Division I tournament, to take on the Pistons. Up next this week for the Bucks: Wednesday against Washington (one of the teams that held Wolters’ rights on draft night), Friday at Charlotte and Saturday and Tuesday against Boston.
Here are some final thoughts on South Dakota State’s win over Youngstown State on Saturday and some early thoughts on its playoff pairing against Northern Arizona:
SDSU had not won two road games in two weeks since 2006, going 0-14 in the meantime. Also, the Jacks hadn’t won at least eight games in consecutive seasons since 1950-51.
SDSU made two interceptions to extend to 12 its streak of forcing at least one turnover. Its turnover margin through the regular season: Plus-14. Meanwhile, the Jacks were charged with five fumbles, most due to weather-related drops. But it lost only one when a punt hit the back of the legs of a blocker.
YSU was without cornerback and No. 2 tackler Julius Childs due to injury. SDSU was missing starting OL Mike Shoff for the second game in a row and his fill-in Josh Kage. That made Nick Purcell the top right guard. He’s spent most of his career at center.
Jacks junior receiver Jason Schneider finished with seven catches for 59 yards and a score – his sixth game in a row with a touchdown. He’s moved into second on the single-season list for catches at 71 and is 15 yards from becoming the first SDSU player at the NCAA Division I level to reach 1,000 for a season.
The SDSU defense continued its late-season surge. The Jacks have given up a total of 25 points in the last three games. That includes three touchdowns, one on the ground and two in the air. They’ve also given up less than 215 yards in two of those games.
SDSU sophomore running back Reggie Gandy had a break-out game with 13 carries for 90 yards an the opening touchdown. It was his best game of the season and came just a couple of weeks after slipping behind freshman Isaac Rodriguez for the back-up job behind All-American Zach Zenner. “Reggie was bounding off people like he always does, making plays out there,” Zenner said. “Reggie’s a good player.” As for Zenner, he turned in his 20th 100-yard game in the last two seasons and pushed his season rushing total to 1,695. That’s fifth-best in school history.
SDSU blocked a kick for a third week in a row, this time defensive tackle Chase Douglas swatting a first-quarter PAT. It didn’t hurt that the Penguins were unorganized. The new holder ran into the field late. The old holder was injured last week.
The Jacks seemed to genuinely enjoy the snowy conditions. Said LB R.C. Kilgore: “I couldn’t have dreamed for better weather – especially as a senior, last game of the regular season. The flurries started coming – in South Dakota that’s a normal day for us. The Youngstown players they were complaining about the weather, but we were loving it.” The lights were on by the second quarter. At halftime, a cart brushed off the sidelines and the hash marks.
SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier thought this might have been one of the best games in the standout career of quarterback Austin Sumner, especially in terms of managing the game. Sumner threw only four incompletions and ran for a pair of third-down conversions. He led SDSU on scoring drives of 81, 81 and 80 yards in taking a 21-6 lead in the second quarter.
Based on the Sagarin Ratings of all Division I football teams, the Jacks are favored over NAU by 4.5 points. In the new Simple Ratings Systems, SDSU is No. 17 and NAU is No. 11. Of course, that metric doesn’t have undefeated and two-time defending national champion North Dakota State at No. 1. Here’s the complete list.
SDSU went 2-1 during the regular season against teams that made the bracket, beating No. 4 seed Southeastern Louisiana and Pioneer champ Butler and losing to No. 1 NDSU. Also, the Jacks faced No. 2 Eastern Illinois in last season’s playoffs and have future non-conference games scheduled with qualifier Southern Utah.
A reader asked me to answer the following question publicly: How could the Jacks be sent on the road in Round 1 while a team they crushed - Butler - gets to host? It’s about geography for the sake of money. The protocol is supposed to work like this: The field if 24 is chosen, the top eight seeds are selected and the remaining 16 are paired up based on geography as much as possible. That’s because the NCAA is responsible for paying for team travel, and any trips under 400 miles are to be made by bus, a much cheaper mode of transportation than a charter plane. Tennessee State is located about 290 miles from Butler. So that pairing made sense based on the principles of building the bracket. TSU reportedly did not put in a bid to host and Butler did. So the Bulldogs get to host. Frankly, the NCAA could have created another potential second-round game between SDSU and NDSU. It opted not to.
Here are some tidbits leading up to the monster regular-season finale between No. 16 South Dakota State (7-4) and No. 15 Youngstown State (8-3) on Saturday. I’ll have live coverage starting at noon CT:
This contest will feature two 1,000-yard rushers: Jacks junior Zach Zenner and Penguins freshman Martin Ruiz. A product of Tampa, Fla., Ruiz is the fourth freshman in Valley history to hit four figures. YSU coach Eric Wolford describes him as mature, hard working and running with low pads.
On Thursday night, Southeastern Louisiana scored 32 points in the third quarter in cruising to a win in its regular-season finale. That puts the Southland Conference champs at 10-2, the lone losses being to TCU and SDSU.
The Penguins are second in the Valley in average home attendance at 14,261.
The Jacks were forced to practice indoors (mostly) Thursday due to the weather. The defense went in the Barn and the offense worked at the Fifth Street Gym before some special teams work was taken care of outdoors. On a related note, the steel work has started on the Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex.
Still no betting line on this game as of Thursday night from 5dimes, an offshore site that consistently works in the FCS. That’s almost certainly in response to the questions around the health of YSU QB Kurt Hess.
Injury update: SDSU won’t have starting guard Mike Shoff for the second week in a row. But starting guard Alex Parker took reps with the 1s Thursday, and back-up Josh Kage hasn’t been ruled out yet. YSU is expected to be without its No. 2 QB due to a separated shoulder and its No. 2 tackler in CB Julius Childs.
My head is spinning from trying to run through all the FCS playoff scenarios. But a couple of things that seem - seem - to make sense:
The Big Sky is in line to get a minimum of three bids in that Montana and Eastern Washington have nine wins as will the Southern Utah vs. Northern Arizona winner;
The Southland is almost sure to get three bids as long as Sam Houston State beats Central Arkansas. SLU has the AQ and McNeese State is at nine wins already.
The Ohio Valley could make things messy if Tennessee State gets to 10 wins and Jacksonville State to 9. So could the Colonial if Delaware and William & Mary get to the eight-win mark already eclipsed by Maine and Towson.
Also on the playoff front, the NCAA this week debuted a site that details how the field is picked and placed. The wording makes it abundantly clear that proximity is factored into building the bracket after the seeding is set and therefore more SDSU vs. NDSU games are on the table this year and beyond (just not in the first round). Some are of the mind that the regional pairings are a tradeoff for expanding the field from 16 teams to 20 and now to 24. Might that mean Montana vs. Montana State will become a frequent second-round playoff pairing, too? We’ll see.
The live-ness continues tonight with the South Dakota State women’s basketball team hosting Pepperdine and Saturday when the Jackrabbits head to Youngstown State in what amounts to a play-in game for the FCS playoffs.
The South Dakota State men’s basketball team plays Texas Tech tonight in Lubbock in the first of four games in the (somewhat disjointed) Progressive Legends Classic. The Red Raiders were picked ninth out of 10 teams in the Big 12 preseason poll in this, their first season under Tubby Smith - a frequent SDSU foe during his time at Minnesota. They return 10 players from last season’s 11-20 squad and are off to a 3-1 start this month. The game will air at 7 p.m. on Fox College Sports Pacific.
Perhaps more interesting than the particulars is the backdrop: The Jackrabbits playing the first of three guarantee-type games this season. SDSU (1-3) has won at least one of those in each of the last five seasons. And, yes, that predates the Nate Wolters era.
The victims in order from newest to oldest: New Mexico State, Washington, Iowa, Wyoming and Iowa State. That string of success helped the Jacks garner at least some extra attention on an annual basis, good for recruiting and maybe fundraising.
The current club will have three cracks at pulling a power-conference upset, all in the next three weeks. There’s tonight at Texas Tech, Dec. 1 at Stanford and Dec. 10 at Minnesota.
On paper, this first affair may be the Jacks’ best shot in that the Red Raiders aren’t great (they were in a dogfight with Texas Southern on Monday night) and they’re at least familiar with the Smith system – even if they haven’t had much success against it.
"I think our guys will be confident going in there and playing," SDSU coach Scott Nagy said. "We played so many of those games - and (transfer forward) Cody (Larson) was at Florida so he’s seen those teams. There should be no intimidation factor."
A win wouldn’t make or break the season, as the Jacks found out in missing the postseason after each of their first three guarantee-game wins. But it’s an opportunity to gain some buzz and considerable confidence on a single night.
The Skyforce start their 25th season Friday night by hosting former coach Joel Abelson and Reno. On the scale of most intriguing campaigns, this one has to rate pretty highly with a new home - the Sanford Pentagon - and the exclusive affiliation with the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat.
That’s the topic this week on the Too Much TV podcast with guest Adam Simon - a longtime Heat employee serving as Force general manager for basketball operations - fills us in on what’s ahead.
Here’s a recap from the final Missouri Valley Football Conference coaches call of the 2013 season:
Missouri State (5-7, 5-3) finished the season last week and subsequently announced that it would retain coach Terry Allen and his staff due to a late-season run and financial considerations.
Illinois State (5-6, 4-4) is done, too. So is its run of three winning seasons in a row. The Redbirds made the playoffs last year.
Southern Illinois (6-5, 4-3) heads to Indiana State (1-10, 0-7) with an outside shot at throwing its name into playoff consideration.
Northern Iowa (6-5, 2-5) is in the same spot at SIU except with a better non-conference resume and worse league record. The Panthers go to Western Illinois (4-7, 2-5) this week. The Leathernecks are coming off a road win over the Sycamores that snapped a five-game slide.
No. 1 North Dakota State can lock up the top seed in the upcoming playoffs with a win over South Dakota (4-7, 3-4). The Bison have won 20 in a row and already have locked up the league title, while the Coyotes have dropped four straight - the last three against ranked teams. NDSU hammered USD 54-0 in Sioux Falls last season. USD coach Joe Glenn said again that he just wishes the run game was healthier. He also lamented the Bison recruiting machine. "We’re having a hard time getting through on those guys in recruiting," he said. "most of the teams in our league are."
Finally, No. 16 South Dakota State (7-4, 4-3) visits No. 16 Youngstown State (8-3, 5-2) in what could be a win-and-in situation for both teams. It’ll air on ESPN3. Penguins coach Eric Wolford said that QB Kurt Hess (ankle) is “good to go,” and that the senior was pulled early last week in the mind of being healthier this week. The back-up has a separated shoulder. The Jacks have won three in a while while YSU has lost two straight. "To try to narrow the focus we simply talked about if we want to have a chance you have to play every play like it’s your last," SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier said of the run, "because if you don’t get it done you’re done."
Obviously, there’s going to be a bunch of South Dakota State football news (and non-news) this week with the No. 16-ranked Jackrabbits (7-4) prepping to visit No. 15 Youngstown State (8-3) in the regular-season finale with a playoff berth on the line. The Sports Network projects that SDSU will make the field (and YSU won’t). It’s first-round foe? Montana. Sound familiar? Still, the Jacks will put together a bid to host, per athletic director Justin Sell. Meanwhile, YSU beat writer Joe Scalzo reported Monday that Penguins back-up QB Dante Nania is in a sling. That puts even more intrigue on the status of starter Kurt Hess, who suffered an ankle injury against UNI and played little against North Dakota State last week. YSU coach Eric Wolford will answer questions today during the Valley Football coaches call and during his weekly press conference.
The SDSU wrestling team (0-1) hosts No. 12-ranked Nebraska (1-0) at 2 p.m. Sunday at Frost Arena. The Jacks are coming off a bounce-back performance in an invitational at Iowa State. In that event, redshirt freshman Alex Kocer (149) and unattached freshman Isaac Andrade (125) both beat nationally ranked opponents from host Iowa State en route to reaching the semifinals. The Huskers boast two local kids: 174-pound junior Robert Kokesh of Wagner and 285-pound redshirt freshman Collin Jensen of Mobridge. They’re coached by Vermillion native Mark Manning. "This is huge for us," SDSU coach Chris Bono said. "We just want our guys to go out and compete and see where we’re at. Hopefully we can have an upset or two - (the Huskers) are favored in 10 weight classes."
Ex-SDSU star Nate Wolters and the Milwaukee Bucks have four games on tap for the next week - plenty of stories within them, too. On Wednesday, the Bucks will host Portland. Roosevelt grad and ex-USD guard Nate Tibbetts is a Blazers assistant. Then it’s on to Philly on Friday to face a team that briefly held Wolters’ rights on draft night before hosting the Michael Jordan-run Bobcats on Saturday. On Monday, Wolters will take on the Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills where the Jacks faced Michigan in the most recent NCAA tournament. Wolters was ranked fourth on the most recent NBA Rookie Ladder. He’s averaging 8.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 5.1 assists. As of Monday night, he was No. 2 in the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.60).
The SDSU volleyball team finished the season over the weekend - the only eligible team not to make the newly expanded Summit League tourney. At 5-22, the Jacks finished with more losses than they had since 1986 and the fewest wins since 1970. Their record that year? 4-3. In other words, this was the worst season in program history in terms of winning percentage. The school began fielding a team in 1966.
Some final notes from No. 19 South Dakota State’s 27-12 win at South Dakota on Saturday:
Of the numerous bumps that the Jacks took during the game, those to offensive linemen Alex Parker and Josh Kage appeared to the untrained eye to be the most serious. Expect updates later in the week. Injuries could be key in the regular-season finale at Youngstown State as the Penguins are dealing with issues for multiple quarterbacks. Starting guard Mike Shoff was not in uniform for the USD game due to injury.
SDSU’s strength of schedule took a big jump Saturday when three opponents - Southeastern Louisiana, Butler and North Dakota State - clinched at least a share of their respective titles. The Jacks beat the Lions and the Bulldogs early in the season. SLU is assured of a playoff bid by winning the Southland Conference. It is 9-2 with the only losses being at SDSU and at TCU. Butler (9-3) awaits a Tuesday ruling to break a tie for the automatic playoff bid in the Pioneer Football League.
Sure seems that USD season-ticket holders get their money’s worth in terms of entertainment. The margin of victory Saturday was the largest by anybody in the DakotaDome since the Yotes clobbered Missouri S&T 48-14 on Nov. 11, 2011. The other home games this season were decided by three and four points.
It was an eventful day for the special teams unit on both clubs. SDSU tried and missed a long field goal with Jay Carlson rather than regular kicker Justin Syrovatka - the first attempt of his career. Syrovatka tried one later and had it blocked. The Jacks also lost out on a PAT due to a low snap and put a kickoff out of bounds. Their highlight was a 37-yard punt return by Je Ryan Butler. USD had an early field goal partially blocked and doinked a PAT - that would have tied the game at 13-all - off the right upright. The Coyotes turned in a couple of good kick returns, however, of 31 and 41 yards. When asked about the miscues, USD coach Joe Glenn shook his head and said, “Kids.”
Jacks coach John Stiegelmeier sought out Yotes star linebacker Tyler Starr - a player SDSU recruited - after the game. "I just told him it’s been a treat to compete against him and that I thought he was one of the best football players we’ve ever had to scheme against," Stiegelmeier explained, "and I complimented him on what they’ve done in the program." Still, the Jacks held Starr relatively in check in both meetings against him, giving up a total of 11 tackles, but preventing him from getting any sacks or turnovers.
SDSU junior RB Zach Zenner ran his season rushing total over 1,500 yards by topping the 100 mark for the 10th time in 11 games. That gives him the two highest single-season totals for the Jacks in their D-I era. He’s currently tied for second in the FCS at 1,509. He also moved over 4,000 yards for his career, moving ever close to passing Kyle Minett for second in school history. And he’s up to 114 points for the season, third-most in school history behind two seasons turned in by Ranek.
The Jacks did not commit a three-and-out in the game and turned in the two longest drives in terms of time (7:07 and 5:34). They ended up with a time of possession edge of 9:40 despite running six fewer plays than USD.
Did SDSU CB Winston Wright consider taking on a knee in the 80-yard interception return that clinched the win? Yes. But he said the rule of thumb is that you should kneel inside of 2 minutes. He looked at the clock after securing the ball, saw more than 2 minutes and decided to try to run.