BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — Delaware was the first team to score on Saturday, but SDSU was the only team to score from there. The Jackrabbits scored 33 unanswered points on their way to a 33-3 win in the FCS semifinals.
“I’m so proud of our football program. They believe, they work harder than I can imagine. They never gave up on some of the big plays,” SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said. “We beat a good football team. Delaware’s a good football team, their quarterback is a really good football player. I’m just proud of our football team and I look forward to trying to take the next step.”
“At the end of the day, South Dakota State performed extraordinarily well in all three phases,” Delaware head coach Danny Rocco said. “I feel like we got their best shot today and I could’ve anticipated that after last week, I feel like they felt they weren’t at their best.”
SDSU advanced to the semifinals, following last weeks narrow win over Southern Illinois, but this week’s game was never in doubt.
The Jackrabbits dominated the line of scrimmage of both sides of the football.
“It was just how we attacked the preparation. We saw what other teams could do and we kind of just copied that and put our spin on things and it worked out for us,” SDSU junior Reece Winkelman said.
“Offensively, they controlled the line of scrimmage and they ran the ball. If not at will, then at least in a way they could dictate how the game was going to be played offensively,” Rocco said. “Defensively, they did an outstanding job. They did an outstanding job in terms of shutting down our run and pressuring our quarterback. They brought their fair share of blitzes, but a lot of the pressure was just edge rushes.”
SDSU’s offense was efficient, however, the eye catching performance on Saturday was on the other side of the ball.
“I would just say it was relentless effort. We had all eleven hats running to the ball and when you have the momentum going your way, everything just feels like it is going your way,” Winkelman said. “We just didn’t give up the momentum. Everyone just kept running to the ball, doing their part and it just worked out.”
“We have one of the best defenses in the country, the best in my opinion. Anytime they get a huge play, the offense just feeds off that and you can see it,” SDSU sophomore Jaxon Janke said “Every time they get a big stop, we always respond well.”
That situation showed itself to be true on Saturday as Delaware had a strong drive in the first quarter that lasted 15 plays and went 54 yards and took nearly eight minutes, but it ended with three.
SDSU’s defense made a big stand in that drive and forced a field goal. That stop fueled the offense into four straight touchdown drives.
“That was a big turning point. We knew that they haven’t had to deal with adversity all season. They were down only one time in the first half all season,” Janke said.
“One of our goals on defense is to limit their redzone scoring, so we get the win if they kick a field goal or they don’t score,” SDSU senior Logan Backhaus said.
The defense made several big plays on Saturday, despite forcing zero turnovers. SDSU came up with seven sacks against the Blue Hens.
On the other side of the ball, the Jackrabbits allowed zero sacks, despite Delaware forcing five sacks in last weeks win.
“Number one, they’re all healthy, they’ve played together the whole season and they’ve played together for a long time,” Stiegelmeier said. “I would say this, there is a lot of pride there. There is a lot of pride in the fact that they don’t give up sacks and they protect their quarterback.”
SDSU is now in their first ever FCS National Championship.
“When you say that you want to win a national championship or it is one of your goals, you have to get to Frisco to have a shot at that,” Stiegelmeier said. “What I hope and expect is that we aren’t so giddy about getting there, but we’re more excited about the chance to win a national championship.”
Coach Stieglemeier has been the head coach in Brookings 24 years. Saturday was his third FCS Semifinals and Sunday, May 16 will be his first ever national championship.
“I’m so happy for coach Stig (Stiegelmeier). He has put in so much work for us and he loves us all to death,” Janke said. “14 years of being eligible for the FCS playoffs and we finally did it, to head to Frisco for Stig and I just couldn’t be happier. We’ve got one more and we’ve got to do it for him.”
SDSU will play in the FCS National Championship on Sunday, May 16. Kick-off is set for 1:00 p.m. from Frisco, Texas.