A few final thoughts from South Dakota State’s crucial 16-12 win at Southern Illinois on Saturday:
Despite posting a non-offensive score for the fifth week in a row, the Salukis were held to their lowest point total since a 24-3 loss to Indiana State on Sept. 29. That game was also in Carbondale, where SIU is just 8-7 since opening its new stadium.
Meanwhile, SDSU now has three wins when scoring 17 or less and three wins when scoring 30 or more. You could look at that in a couple of ways: The Jacks are versatile or semi-inconsistent.
John Stiegelmeier became the second coach in SDSU history to reach 100 career wins, joining Ralph Ginn, who posted 113 in 22 seasons. The feat isn’t as rare within the Missouri Valley Football Conference, however, as five of the 10 current coaches have hit the mark. The others: Joe Glenn, USD, 189; Dale Lennon, SIU, 136; Terry Allen, MSU, 122; Mark Farley, UNI, 102.
The SDSU players gave Stiegelmeier the game ball after the win, and quarterback Austin Sumner said that getting to that landmark was motivating.
Still, no coach is above reproach, and the Jacks had a couple of head-scratching situations prior to their game-winning drive.
On third-and-4 from its 11-yard line with less than 5 minutes left, SDSU ran a QB option play to the right with Austin Sumner, who isn’t known for his running ability. Why? According to Stiegelmeier, that was the same play called when Sumner gained a career-high 24 yards earlier in the game. The problem was that SIU came out with a totally different defensive look and blew up the play. In fact, Stiegelmeier felt that Sumner was lucky to retain possession.
On the very next play, the Jacks then lined up to go for it on fourth-and-3 despite being at their own 12 and possessing all three timeouts. But they were called for delay of game and then punted.
Asked about that just minutes after the game, Stiegelmeier said he indeed planned to run a play and wasn’t sure what held up the play. Receiver Trevor Tiefenthaler said the thought behind that was SDSU needed only 3 yards, and the Jacks were confident their defense would have given up only a field goal if the conversion failed.
SDSU has won three in a row in the series since laying an egg against the Salukis in a 2009 home game for the Valley title.
Injury update: Stiegelmeier said that what happened to the right knee of OL Josh Kage in the fourth quarter was “not good.” He was less sure about the status of WR Jason Schneider (left ankle). Reserve LB Robbie Jelsma also had to be helped off the field, suffering what appeared to be a concussion on kick coverage.
SIU came in ranked last in the Valley in rushing offense (111.8 yards per game) yet tallied 131 yards by halftime against the normally stout SDSU run defense. Thirty-six of those came on fly-sweep runs by receiver LaSteven McKinney, who had just 15 rush attempts in the first nine games. The Jacks adjusted to that as the game went on, giving up just 44 yards rushing in the second half and forcing McKinney to fumble.
The Salukis came up empty on four drives that moved inside the SDSU 35-yard line, punting three times and missing a field goal (it was blocked by Jacks DT Andy Mink) late in the first half. One of those stalled due to a penalty. SIU was flagged a season-high 10 times for 63 yards.
Several SDSU players moved up the career charts Saturday. Sumner is now 10th in career passing yards, passing Noel Bouche (3,947); receivers Aaron Rollin and Tyrel Kool are tied with each other for 8th in career catches at 120; and Rollin is 10th in career receiving yards at 1,662.
An update on the Valley postseason situation with two weeks left in the regular season: NDSU and Illinois State virtual locks with eight D-I wins, including one each against Football Bowl Subdivision squads. No Valley team has ever been left out with eight D-I wins. The Bison and Redbirds meet next week in Bloomington-Normal, too.
Indiana State can still get to 8-3 with a win in its finale at Youngstown State in two weeks, but one of those is against a lower-level foe.
The Penguins are also in the mix at 5-4 and an FBS win. They finish at struggling Western Illinois before hosting the Sycamores.
SDSU is in decent shape in that it has the potential to get to nine wins and boasts head-to-head victories over Indiana State and Youngstown. The Jacks go to No. 1-ranked North Dakota State this week with the winner clinching at least a share of the league title before hosting last-place South Dakota to close the regular season.
Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.