BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO)- The Jackrabbits saw their season come to an end with a 13-10 loss against the University of Northern Iowa in the second round of the FCS playoffs.
“Well we started out great, in the first quarter, we were dominating and we fell in a funk on offense. I think we played well enough on defense to win that game and then we had some untimely turnovers, which has kind of been the story for us this year,” head coach John Stiegelmeier said.
With the closing of the year, the Jacks will graduate 17 Seniors.
“Phenomenal group of young men. I have the staff rate the senior class when they leave, we’ve done that the last couple years and nothing against anyone else, but they rated this one as the one that is going to be missed the most and probably not as much the stardom of the class, but the leadership and work ethic and what they accomplished on the field,” Stiegelmeier said.
Despite finishing the year with a winning record and a first round bye in the FCS playoffs, the Jackrabbits still didn’t achieve all of their goals for the season.
“We fell short and from a coaches standpoint, a players standpoint, an administration standpoint there is no doubt we fell short and we have very lofty, high goals here and we don’t flinch when we talk about them and these guys work hard. They work tremendously hard and why not have lofty goals,” Stiegelmeier said.
The Jackrabbits dealt with adversity all season, including the loss of J’Bore Gibbs for five and a half games and leading rusher Pierre Strong Jr. for the last two games.
“There are people that would say that injuries had an impact, but I shy away from that because I want everybody to believe that we can win with them and we will win with them and so when I start making excuses or rationale or why we fell short, then I just open up a door for us to be weaker. The bottom line is I do believe in all 105 of our players,” Stiegelmeier said.
SDSU saw thousands of fans stream into Brookings to watch SDSU games this season, including a sell out crowd for the Dakota Marker game.
“Well I thought we started out really strong, I felt the GameDay game against North Dakota State was a phenomenal environment. I was a little disappointed in the 4,100 people that showed up for the playoff game against UNI, but boy, were they into the game and so I want to thank all of the fans that showed up and the students that showed up because they are impactful and hopefully someday in my time, this place will be filled up routinely with great Jackrabbit fans,” Stiegelmeier said.
The Jackrabbits reached the FCS playoffs for the eighth straight season, but for the first time in three years, SDSU failed to reach the third round. With the Jacks falling short of their goal this season, SDSU knows how to get back to their winning ways.
“A lot of hard work and focus. Probably a bit of bad feeling in our stomach and in our hearts about how the season ended. The pressure and the expectation of the classes that have gone before us and that is the expectation, but it’s belief, hard work and staying healthy,” Stiegelmeier said.
For the 8th straight season, the Jackrabbits finished the year with a winning record as SDSU closed their 2019 season with an 8-5 record.