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