BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO)- SDSU and NDSU will cross paths for the 110th time on Saturday, however this will be the 16th game that the two teams battle for the Dakota Marker trophy.
“This is a great rivalry and it started a long time ago when we both went division one and we needed each other and we needed a conference. The trophy the competition. The top ten rankings; it’s a great game,” SDSU Head Coach John Stiegelmeier said.
The border battle between the Jackrabbits and the Bison usually has plenty of excitement on game day, but this year, they’ll be an even greater environment thanks to a visit from College GameDay.
“I love South Dakota State University and I’ve been blessed to be here, both as an undergraduate and a coach now and so to have College GameDay come here and be able to highlight this great, great place, I think is a real honor,” Stiegelmeier said.
“I thought it was a long shot when people were saying they were trying to get it to come here, but obviously, it’s great. It’ll be an awesome environment. Getting the crowd sold out is awesome and just getting fans is the seats will make it a great environment,” SDSU Senior linebacker Christian Rozeboom said.
For the first time in three seasons, the Jackrabbits will face a new NDSU quarterback as redshirt freshman Trey Lance takes over for the Bison.
“He manages his game really well for his age, just like J’Bore. He’s very mature; it doesn’t seem like he gets rattled at all. It helps when you’re ahead in a bunch of games because you’re not pressing. Ideally that’s not this situation, but I think he’s a great player,” Stiegelmeier said.
“I think the d-line has just been playing really well and hopefully that will continue and I know it will continue. Just getting some pressure on him and then the coverage on the back end has to be great too,” Rozeboom said.
The NDSU offense is averaging nearly 40 points per contest, but will have their challenges trying to score against a Jackrabbit defense that is averaging over three sacks per game.
“I think there’s just a lot of guys in the d-line room that are ready to play and just getting fresh legs too, is key for them and then the coverage on the back end has been great too, for the most part. The coaches have really been coaching up the d-line well,” Rozeboom said.
“Well I think it’s huge and your opportunities for sacks come in two ways. You need to be ahead in the game so they have to start throwing the ball and then you have to get them in third and long and that’s hard to do against North Dakota State because they run the ball really well, and so we’re going to have to play really great run defense to have opportunities at sacks,” Stiegelmeier said.
NDSU isn’t the only team with a quarterback change as the Bison will face a new Jackrabbit quarterback for the first time in four years, in redshirt freshman, J’Bore Gibbs.
“I see a guy that is changing internally, but externally, you can’t see any change. He’s a cool, calm, in-control guy and I have never seen a guy his age, stand in the pocket like he did this last game and make throws and then get hit. Unbelievable poise and it’s pretty cool to see,” Stiegelmeier said.
“Just a leader on the field. Just throws that he wasn’t making at Minnesota, he’s making those throws now. He’s really sitting in the pocket and reading the defense all the way through and that’s awesome. Making the correct reads, whether to pull it or to give it and he’s just being a leader in the huddle,” SDSU Junior wide receiver Cade Johnson said.
Both NDSU and SDSU average over 235 yards of rushing per game, which will make the battle in the trenches even more important.
“Well there’s a lot of pride in both teams and the pride starts with how we play on the lines of scrimmage. The physical part of that and I know that because I see it when I watch film and so our guys are going to be ready; their guys are going to be ready. There will be no mental mistakes up front; it’s going to be who wins the physical battle and we’re going to do everything to win that battle,” Stiegelmeier said.
The Jacks have won two of the last three Dakota Marker games, but SDSU will have to play mistake free to win on Saturday.
“It’s being ourselves and playing within the scheme and not making mental mistakes. It’s going to be two really good football teams playing. Many times, it’s a mental mistake that loses it for you and we don’t want to be on the end of that decision,” Stiegelmeier said.
“I think we just need to play Jackrabbit football and coach Stig (Stiegelmeier) told us that and I have a really good feeling and I know that if we come out and play the way that we feel we can play, then we’re not going to have any problems and just expect a four-quarter game. It’s going to be a really fun game and I’m excited to get them down here and just be able to play another Dakota Marker game,” Johnson said.
College GameDay will be on College Green; it begins at 8:00 a.m. and concludes at 11:00 a.m. The Dakota Marker game is at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium with kick-off at 2:00.