BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — SDSU is off to a 4-0 start for the first time since 2000. However, the Jacks are now preparing for a gauntlet of tough contests as they’ll play seven straight conference games, including matchups with four ranked opponents.
SDSU has cruised to a 4-0 start as they have outscored their opponents by 156 points. Much of this success can be credited to the quick maturation of transfer quarterback, Chris Oladokun.
“Early in the season, Zach (Lujan) said that Chris Oladokun is the best quarterback that he has seen on the field,” SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said. “Now that doesn’t take anything away from Taryn Christion, Zach Lujan, Austin Sumner, Keaton Heide or J’Bore Gibbs. What it does is it says that Chris Oladokun is a special, special player, because those other guys had really good careers and are having good careers.”
The Jacks have played one conference game thus far, but now they prepare to play seven conference opponents in-a-row, starting with #8 Southern Illinois.
“Our assistants remind me, business as usual. Don’t make one game bigger, don’t make one conference opponent bigger and I’ve already told them how good Southern Illinois is and they’ll see that on film,” Stiegelmeier said.
SDSU met the Salukis in the COVID delayed spring regular season of 2021. They later met them again in the postseason.
“We played them twice last year, or actually this year, so it’ll be the third time in a year that we’ve played South Dakota State,” SIU head coach Nick Hill said. “They beat us every time and we’ve got to go on the road again, against a really unbelievable team. I think coach Stiegelmeier has those guys playing at a super high level.”
“I think they’re very similar. They do a lot of stuff on offense and they always have. I think that’s reflective of Nick (Hill) and his offensive background,” Stiegelmeier said. “Defensively, I think they’ve gotten better in the sense that their players are a year older. I know they have some guys that are new, but I do think they play really good defense.”
A key to Saturday’s game will be how well the SIU defense can handle SDSU star running back, Pierre Strong Jr. The senior running back has rushed for 486 yards and five scores in just four games.
“You know, he’s one of the best backs that we’ve ever seen here. Playing against him, I’m ready for him to graduate that’s for sure, but he’s a great player, and he’s back playing as good as he has ever played,” Hill said.
“Their coordinator moves those inside guys a bunch and gives you a bunch of different looks, a lot more variety on the inside, then on the outside by the defensive ends,” Stiegelmeier said. “It’s going to be up to our big guys to pick up those movements and knock them off the ball and then Pierre (Strong Jr.) when he’s in the open space, he’s really tough to bring down.”
Saturday will be a top ten showdown in Brookings, with the winner adding an important game to their playoff résumé.
“With great teams, you look around the country. Alabama and all the top teams in FBS, they’re going to lineup and execute and play really well, just fundamental football,” Hill said. “That’s what you get with South Dakota State. They’re going to execute, they’re going to out physical you and so we’ve got to line up and do the same thing.”
“I’m really excited because this is where you set yourself up to try and compete for the prize at the end. The non-conference was important. The Indiana State game obviously kicked it off, but now there is this long run of conference teams, many of them are ranked. It’s an opportunity for you, if you’re good enough, to solidify yourself to get into the playoffs.”
The Jacks and Salukis will cross paths on Saturday in Brookings. Kick-off is set for 2 p.m.