Some final thoughts from South Dakota State’s 24-10 victory over No. 22 Indiana State on Saturday in Terre Haute:
How much better is the SDSU defense right now than it was last year? Let’s count the ways.
1) The Jacks have given up a total of 32 points in three games against FCS foes this season after giving 33.1 per game in 2011.
2) They also have 18 sacks through four games compared to 22 in 11 games last fall.
3) They’re giving up 82.2 yards per game on the ground compared to 203.6 a year ago.
The Sycamores hadn’t been held to such a low point total at home since Oct. 31, 2010.
With a 237-yard showing, Jacks RB Zach Zenner pushed his season totals to 895 yards and 5 TDs on 107 carries, good for 8.4 yards per try. The No. 2 rusher in NCAA Division I, Stefphon Johnson of Nevada, is at 699 yards.
The sophomore needs 105 yards this week to tie the Missouri Valley Football Conference record for fastest to reach 1,000. ISU star Shakir Bell – runner-up for the Walter Payton Award in 2011 – needed seven weeks to get there. In other words, expect Zenner to be added to the Payton watch list when it’s updated in early October.
SDSU has rushed for 988 yards as a team through four games compared to 919 all of last season.
Meanwhile, the pass game continues to struggle. The Jacks are completing just 46.8 percent of their passes with six picks compared to four touchdowns.
Certainly, a preseason hand injury to QB Austin Sumner has had plenty to do with that as have consecutive windy contests. But coach John Stiegelmeier also noted the number of drops, something SDSU rarely does in practice.
"Right now, we might be a little tentative with that," he said of the pass attack. "We’ve got a good quarterback, we’ve got good receivers."
The WR group has a total of two touchdowns compared to three by the tight ends, one coming on a rush by freshman Cam Jones out of the heavy flash (aka Wildcat) package Saturday.
TE Seth Daughters noted that pass protection needs to improve, too. SDSU has surrendered 14 sacks so far.
Former SDSU football player Shane Bowman attended the game and afterward chatted up some folks. He’s currently the head coach of the Indiana State softball program.
In random Sycamores news, the pregame included a lengthy video about how the program has turned around under Trent Miles and a mini-coaches show. Among the most interesting nuggets: RB Shakir Bell can front squat 550 pounds. The 5-foot-8 junior weighs 185.
The Jacksonville Jaguars had a scout at the game.
This trip to Terre Haute could not have ended more differently for SDSU than the last. In 2010, the Jacks arrived there on a three-game win streak after an 0-4 start and threatening to get back in the playoff race only to suffer a 41-30 loss to an ISU program it had clobbered the previous two times.
Now, SDSU is 3-1 and won’t hit the road again for almost a month with two home games sandwiching a bye week.
Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.