South Dakota State Preview: #3 Jackrabbits at #17 Youngstown State
Playing on the road is a fact of life for college football teams but for third-ranked South Dakota State leaving Brookings isn't something they've had to for quite a while.
When the Jackrabbits (4-1/1-0 Missouri Valley Conference) head to Ohio for a battle of Top 25 teams with #17 Youngstown State, Saturday (October 12), it'll be the first time in six weeks that SDSU has suited up as the visiting team.
Head coach John Stiegelmeier told me it's something that's been discussed in the run-up to this week's game:
Having success against the Penguins (4-1/0-2 MVFC) means stopping the run. YSU has traditionally had one of the top ground attacks in FCS and this year is no exception. Heading into last week's loss at Northern Iowa, the Penguins had the fourth-best running game in the nation (296 yards per game) with Joe Alessi, Christian Turner, Braxton Chapman, and London Pearson combining for 997 yards and ten touchdowns.
Youngstown's second-leading rusher is also their quarterback.
Senior Nathan Mays has run for 285 yards and four scores this season, but he was knocked out in the fourth quarter of the UNI game after being sacked for the sixth time. On the day, the Panthers held the Penguins to just 55 rushing yards.
Stiegelmeier expects to see Mays back out there this week:
The Penguin defense has been all about forcing turnovers in 2019. Through five games, YSU has 12 takeaways and a plus-nine margin that's tied for second-best in the nation.
Up front, Justus Reed, Ma'lik Richmond, and Craig DeMarko have combined for 12 sacks in five games. That pressure has helped six players in the Penguin secondary combine to pick off seven passes so far in 2019.
Stiegelmeier says his offensive line is a key part of this game:
Kickoff is 5:00 PM, Saturday in Youngstown, Ohio.
The Jackrabbits are back on the road next week when they travel to Indiana State, Saturday, October 19.
SDSU is coming in off of a 28-10 win at home over Southern Illinois last Saturday (October 5).
The Jackrabbit defense was very effective against the Salukis holding them to just 215 yards of total offense and one touchdown.
South Dakota State sacked Southern Illinois quarterback Kare Lyles five times and got an interception from Michael Griffin II to seal the win late.
The Jacks also limited the Salukis to just 1-of-14 on third down. Southern Illinois had been the ninth-best team in the nation on third down coming into the game.
Stiegelmeier says he was impressed with the performance of his defense:
Offensively, the Jacks struggled early against a Saluki defense that had completely changed their look for this game, finding the end zone just once in the first half.
But after making adjustments at halftime, the offense responded with 19 unanswered points in the second half to pull away with the win.
Running back Pierre Strong Jr. singlehandedly accounted for 229 of the 297 rushing yards for the Jackrabbits. His day included a touchdown and runs of 64, 48, and 30 yards.
Stiegelmeier says he loves watching Strong run:
Despite the lack of road experience for his guys in 2019, Stiegelmeier says he likes the mindset of this team heading into this week's big game in Ohio: