Countdown to … Indiana State (and San Diego and BYU)

Here are some notes in advance of South Dakota State - idle last week - hosting Indiana State on Saturday. I’ll be live starting at 1 p.m.

As a special bonus, the first 2 million readers also will receive free bonus notes previewing the season openers for the Jackrabbits basketball teams. Have at it:

The SDSU football team will start true freshman Cole Langer at defensive tackle for the second game in a row. Coach John Stiegelmeier said that the Dell Rapids grad continues to get better by the day.

Did you notice that the Jacks had four quarterbacks in uniform the last time out? True freshman Dalton Douglas was the one wearing No. 19. He dressed just to get the game day experience. That said, Stiegelmeier is pleased with the way the Californian has run the scout offense, calling him a perfectionist. 
The coach also is high on three true freshmen tight ends, meaning the shortage on pass catchers at that spot should be coming to an end.

SDSU isn’t necessarily concerned about field conditions despite the midweek snow. Quarterback Austin Sumner said that the practice field was beginning to feel dry and hard prior to the precip; this could just even things out.

At practice Tuesday, the Jacks were told that they could no longer spat-up their shoes unless it was to treat a legitimate health issue. Why? Because equipment provider Under Armour doesn’t want its logos being covered up without reason. 

Stiegelmeier has been in contact via text message with longtime former Jacks assistant Luke Meadows, now the offensive line coach at Florida Atlantic. The Owls are in turmoil due to the resignation and attempted un-resignation of head coach Carl Pelini. 
Stiegelmeier said that Meadows seems to have a good attitude about the situation and the uncertainty it may present beyond this season.

The SDSU men open against San Diego tonight. The Toreros went 16-18 last season and have been picked fifth in the West Coast Conference. But that’s a bit deceiving considering the four programs ahead of them: Gonzaga, BYU, St. Mary’s and San Francisco.
The most interesting angle is the size contrast. USD’s best player is Johnny Dee, a 6-foot junior guard. Its point is 5-7 Christopher Anderson. The Jacks will go 6-4 and 6-6 opposite those guys. In that regard, SDSU has to be able to defend dribble penetration. 

SDSU goes into the weekend unsure if it’ll play or redshirt true freshman wing Lane Severyn. The Pierre product is on the trip - he might play, he might not. Ideally, he won’t, coach Scott Nagy said, because of the positive value of trading the relatively few minutes he’d play as a true freshman compared to his possibly central role as a fifth-year senior.
Severyn has done well during preseason workouts, it’s just that the point guard moves have put Jake Bittle on the wing meaning less available minutes. 

On Saturday afternoon, the Jacks will take on Loyola Marymount of Bo Kimble and Hank Gathers fame. LMU went 11-23 last season, was picked right behind USD in the WCC poll and opens Friday against D-I newcomer Grand Canyon.

The SDSU women open in a late afternoon affair at BYU, the first game in a men’s-women’s doubleheader. The Cougars were tabbed fourth in the WCC poll coming off a 23-11 campaign and a berth in the third round of the WNIT. 
Jacks coach Aaron Johnston summed up BYU this way: Big, athletic, good motion offense and strong tradition.

The Jacks will be down one of their eight upperclassmen - fifth-year senior guard Tara Heiser. The Watertown grad got hurt during practice before the second exhibition game. She is on the trip, however, and could return next week when SDSU visits Creighton on Tuesday and hosts Georgetown on Friday. 

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Beef Bowl wrap

A few final notes from South Dakota State’s latest loss, a 38-28 decision to No. 24 Indiana State:

Once again, the Jacks struggled to get stops and make plays on third down, allowing 4 of 10 and converting just 5 of 16. Actually, SDSU improved on its season-average in terms of third-down stops - it had been allowing conversions 60 percent of the time.

Also, the Jacks set a season-high in penalties for the second week in a row at 11, one more than the previous contest.

This was the first game this season that SDSU scored in all four quarters. The Jacks hadn’t scored in more than two quarters in any of their previous four games.

SDSU redshirt freshman QB Austin Sumner got a bunch of firsts out of the way in his second career start. The former Brandon Valley star threw his first touchdown pass and broke 300 yards the first time, but also tossed his first interception and (on the same play) his first pick six.
It also seemed like Sumner was on the run a lot, but both he and coach John Stiegelmeier thought that the Jacks offensive line played well.

The Jacks left a bunch of points on the field in the first half, settling for field goals of 19, 26 and 19 yards. Red zone scoring is another ongoing issue.
In a seven-point loss at Illinois State, SDSU fumbled at the 4. The week before that, the Jacks had a drive end at the Cal Poly 1 and threw a pick six from the Cal Poly 3.
"It’s a matter of momentum, it’s a matter of discouraging the other team," Stiegelmeier said. "It’s a matter of confidence."

SDSU is now 0-2 in Missouri Valley play this year, falling to Indiana State and Illinois State for the second straight season. Both of those series have swung dramatically.
The Jacks beat the Redbirds by a total of 52 points in their first two league meetings only to lose the last two by a total of 17 points.
SDSU beat the Sycamores by a total of 81 points in their first two league meetings only to lose the next two by a total of 21 points.
Still, Indiana State coach Trent Miles doesn’t believe that things have flipped.
"They’ve been a quality program for years and they will continue to be," he said of the Jacks. "It’s just something where you come out on the short end. Very easily their record could be flipped. They beat Southern Utah here and they’re pretty good. You’ve got to throw the Illinois game out - that was the money game. Illinois State and this game could have gone either way."

Stiegelmeier said that no new injuries were sustained aside from kicker Kyle Harris being lost for the year.
Harris is the second starter to go down to a season-ending injury joining TE Seth Daughters. Both went down at home and on non-contact situations.

SDSU co-defensive coordinator Jay Bubak was on the sideline Saturday for the second week in a row, a position he hasn’t manned since his first year with the Jacks. Defensive tackle Andy Mink said that it’s helpful having Bubak on the field.

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Here is the press conference video from Indiana State’s 38-28 win over South Dakota State in the Beef Bowl.

Jacks coach John Stiegelmeier is above. Click here for SDSU DT Andy Mink and QB Austin Sumner.

Click here for ISU coach Trent Miles and RB Shakir Bell.

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Indiana Statement

Some news and notes in advance of SDSU hosting Indiana State in the Beef Bowl:

ISU’s Trent Miles was one of two coaches to claim this week that the Jacks are better than their 1-3 record.
Meanwhile, the Sycamores certainly are better than their recent history - much like the Southern Utah squad that visited Brookings to open the season. While Miles credited the players for the turnaround, he agreed that a fresh financial investment by ISU has played a key part in saving a program that not long ago was a candidate to be discontinued.
"That allows you to get the players," the former Sycamores receiver said. "You can come in and look at a dive and then look at all the other schools in the league - you’re not going to come here. It all goes hand-in-hand - facilities, recruiting, coaching staff, meals, everything."
On a related note, the Jacks continue to have the smallest football budget in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

The 6 p.m. contest will air live on Midco Sports Net with former SDSU player Hank McCall handling the color duties.

Jacks senior linebacker Erich Feller is finally on the up in terms of his health. He was very close to opting for surgery, which would have kept him out most of the rest of the season, only to make a semi-unexpected recovery. He got about 50 reps last week and has been back on the practice field this week.
"It was pretty frustrating," he said, "but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel."

Last week, SDSU debuted - with reasonable success - some new looks in terms of defensive schemes and positions. So what happens moving forward. Will the Jacks get better at these new ideas or will the opposition catch on to them?

"They’ll get better for two reasons," Jacks coach John Stiegelmeier said of his players. "No. 1, practice. But in terms of the chess game of football, (the opponents) don’t really know. We can go different directions with the three defensive package. I don’t think there are any tells." 

For all the talk about ISU defensive lineman Ben Obaseki, a Buck Buchanan candidate, the Sycamores three of the top four tacklers in the Valley and he isn’t one of them. Keep an eye on lineback Archie Aaron, safety Alex Sewall and linebacker Jacolby Washington.

Some Valley stats: SDSU and ISU are both giving up more than 30 points per game … the Jacks lead the league in passing offense, but are last in rushing offense … SDSU is first in punting and kickoff coverage, but last in PATs … the Jacks rank last in third-down conversions allowed and turnover margin. 

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Tuesday Tidbits

We’ve got a special Missouri Valley Football Conference edition for you as the league held its annual media day Monday via teleconference. A few notes from each of the nine member programs in order of predicated finish:

1. Northern Iowa
Coach Mark Farley had to reschedule his time with the media because he was repping the school in a golf fundraiser hosted by PGA Tour player Zach Johnson … The Panthers will be searching for a new kicker … Farley on the prospects for the season: “When I go back and look at last year, I just felt that (QB) Tirrell Rennie, our football team did a phenomenal job putting together the season we did with an inexperienced football team. This year, we’re going in with the experience so we’re looking forward to seeing what we can put together on the field.”

2. North Dakota State
Brock Jensen has already been named the starting QB, putting the Bison ahead of where they were last year … Coach Craig Bohl called graduated DL Matt Gratzek arguably the best player in the Valley last year … NDSU is in search of a new punter, a point of concern.

3. Southern Illinois
The Salukis return all five starting offensive linemen and two of them are all-conference picks … Paul McIntosh is the favorite to win the QB battle, but the program landed a solid transfer in A.J. Hill from Northern Illinois. His brother, Nick, played the same position at SIU. … Coach Dale Lennon put the blame for last year’s lackluster season on inconsistency.

4. South Dakota State
The Jacks face another challenging non-league schedule as Southern Utah, Cal Poly and Illinois all finished above .500 last year … Turnover margin is going to be a point of emphasis … Coach John Stiegelmeier said this of embattled returning QB Thomas O’Brien: “He needs to play better, he needs to take care of the football, he needs to mature. He’s played a lot of football for us and this is the year he needs to put his foot down and make plays.”

5. Illinois State
Coach Brock Spack said this is the best team he’s had since joining the school and the previous two both finished over .500 … The Redbirds return 10 starters on offense … The defense struggled last year. How does Spack expect to fix that? “It’s not what we do, it’s how we do it,” he said.

6. Indiana State
The Sycamores weren’t picked last for a change, but they were picked relatively low considering they have 19 returning starters and six all-conference individuals … The program has grown up under coach Trent Miles going from three seniors to five seniors to seven seniors to now 20 seniors … The team will place two FBS foes this year, a major change from when it used to play two non-DIs per season.

7. Western Illinois
Why are the Leathernecks tabbed so low coming off a run to the second round of the playoffs? Because they graduated stars QB Matt Barr and LB Kyle Glazier … WIU returns 12 starters … Wil Lunt and juco transfer Josh Hudson are competing for the QB job.

8. Youngstown State
Eric Wolford begins his second year as coach with seven returning starters on offense led by Walter Payton candidate Jamaine Cook … The Penguins are focused on finishing games after blowing a handful of fourth-quarter leads last season … Wolford is also changing the approach to road games because YSU travels a minimum of six hours for every away date.

9. Missouri State
Why were the Bears picked last? Largely because they play Oregon and Arkansas - two teams in the BCS Bowl Series last year - and have their first four games on the road. That’s followed by the home opener against UNI. “In the state of Missouri we’ve got a little financial problem,” coach Terry Allen explained. “We need the money for our athletic department. That’s something the football program can do and that’s why we took those games on.” … The biggest personnel issue will be replacing four-year QB Cody Kirby.

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

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