Jackrabbit defense is off to hot start

KELOLAND.com Original

BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO)- SDSU has won four straight games by an average of 30 points per game, which can be credited to the Jackrabbit defense that has allowed only 30 points in the last four contests, including last week’s 28-10 win over Southern Illinois.

“I think our defense may have played our best game. To hold a team to 1 out of 14 on third down conversions, 215 yards, 60 some yards in the 2nd half, a phenominal effort by our defense,” SDSU Head Coach John Stiegelmeier said.

Unlike many programs, SDSU has two defensive coordinators who bring different ideas and perspectives to the defense.

“In this case, we have two guys who are literally the coorodinators and I think they work really well together and are great football minds. They are opposites, but they do a good job,” Stiegelmeier said.

Perhaps the biggest advantage to the two coordinator look is on game day. The Jacks have the opportunity to have a defensive coordinator both on the field and up in the coaches box.

“I see an advantage because Coach Bergstrom is up in the box and he see’s it all and Coach Rogers, the guy who’s on the field, he’s basically our leader, our motivator. He’ll relay the message from Coach Bergstrom and make sure we got to do what we got to do,” SDSU Junior safety Michael Griffin II said.

“Well I think the advantage is you can have a coordinator in both spots. Most places have to think ‘where do we want our coordinator? Do we want him on the field or do we want him in the box?’ and we get to have both,” SDSU Co-defensive Coordinator Brian Bergstrom said.

The two coaches have different approaches on how to play defense, but Coach Bergstrom and Coach Rogers have a lot of respect for each other.

“He’s an awesome football mind, a tremendous worker, and no one is more passionate about Jackrabbit football with him being an alum and being here for 14 years and I’m fortunate to learn from him and work with him every day,” Bergstrom said.

“I’m a little bit more intense than him, but he’s a thinker. He thinks things through really well and is super organized and I think he does a really good job,” SDSU Co-defensive Coordinator Jimmy Rogers said.

The SDSU defense is allowing less than 12 points per contest, which lands them as the third best defense in country at the FCS level.

“We’re really just an athletic defense. We spend a lot of time in practice just flying to the ball in our pursuit drills and stuff. We got a lot of guys who play their hearts out, all game and just fly to the ball and that helps us stop the run. It’s about who beats the guys, consistently, every play,” Griffin said.

“A lot of variety in our defense and that’s part of it; fresh guys playing is part of it. Sometimes if you’re ahead in games, people tend to pass the ball more than run the ball and so that has an effect on statistics, so we prefer that was the situation,” Stiegelmeier said.

The Jacks are the top rushing defense in the Missouri Valley football conference as SDSU is allowing 90 rushing yards per contest.

“I think most people would agree that you’ve got to be able to stop the run on defense, especially in our league and it all starts up front. Give credit to our d-line and coach Smith and coach Erickson and first off, getting the mentality and taking pride that they are working together and controling the line of scrimmage, but really the whole defense is involved if the run fits,” Bergstrom said.

With one of the top defenses at the FCS level, Jackrabbits credit that success to the hard work they put in at practice.

“We work a lot on third down, we work a lot in the red zone and that’s kind of been a point of emphasis this year as far as handling all of the little things mainly in those areas, red zone and third downs and it’s been paying off,” Rogers said.

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