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.
Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.