BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — It’s a crucial contest in Brookings this weekend as SDSU and UND meet with plenty of playoff implications on the line.
SDSU suffered a 23-20 loss to in state rival USD last Saturday, as the Coyotes completed a Hail Mary touchdown on the final play of the game. Despite the ending, the Jackrabbits aren’t changing their approach to this week’s game.
“We approach most of the weeks the same. I would say the thing I did differently yesterday in the team meeting, is I showed them probably 13 or 14 clips from the Colorado State and North Dakota State games, just to remind them of the type of team we had and still are. I just tried to get them to focus on playing their best football,” SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier.
Saturday’s game will have big implications on this year’s playoffs. A win for SDSU would most likely earn the Jacks a trip to the postseason with a 7-3 division one record. North Dakota is also in the mix as a win for them would move them to 6-5.
“I reminded them that, number one none of us are part of the selection committee so who knows what’s going to happen, but we only have six wins,” Stiegelmeier said. “Lindenwood doesn’t count and they knew that, but they needed to be reminded of that. That’s really the only thing I’ve said about maybe elevating the importance and the focus and investment in this game.”
“Our focus has to be preparing for South Dakota State and doing a good job of that. To go down there and get to 6-5 would really be a good win for our program and we would just be excited about that and then you let the chips fall where they may,” North Dakota head coach Bubba Schweigert said.
The Fighting Hawks started 3-5 with four of their five losses coming to Missouri Valley opponents by just one score. However, North Dakota has won back-to-back games to put themselves at 5-5 and back in some playoff discussions.
“A few weeks ago, we challenged our team to be great in November and prepare hard and be a great team late in the year,” Schweigert said. “We’ve been able to win two and now we’ve got to go on the road and win one. You’ve just got to take care of that first and then it goes to committee and you see what happens.”
“They’re a really good football team. You can see that on film. We don’t just look at records, we look at film, we look at outcomes, we look at conference rankings in terms of stats and stuff,” Stiegelmeier said. “All that stuff speaks to the fact that they are a really good football team.”
North Dakota owns the fifth best rushing offense in the Missouri Valley Conference, thanks in part to running back Otis Weah who is averaging 94 yards per contest.
“He’s a powerful runner. He’s a compact young man. He’s got really good quickness for his size and obviously you don’t do it on your own,” Stiegelmeier said. “They’re offensive line does a really good job. Their tight ends do a really good job and it’s a good combination.”
The Jackrabbits have the second best rushing attack in the Valley at 201 yards per contest. Running back Pierre Strong Jr. has led the charge as he is second in the country for total rushing yards at 1,245.
“He has it all when he carries the ball. He can get the tough inside yards and he can also really slash and when he gets in the open field, he’s very fast, so he can score from a long ways away,” Schweigert said. “You’ve just got to be so disciplined on defense and gap control is really important when you play against him.”
SDSU is hoping to add another spark to their offense with the potential return of running back Isaiah Davis, however the chance of him returning after more than eight weeks on the sideline looks slim.
“Our trainer was not over 50% on his chances of playing, but I know this, I know Isaiah and I know our football team,” Stiegelmeier said. “He’s a really good football player so if he can play, I know he’ll play. He hasn’t taken a rep since Lindenwood, so it’s been a long journey for him.”
Saturday’s contest will be Senior Day for SDSU as well as the regular season finale and that will add plenty of motivation for the Jacks.
“We have seniors that have come back and 12 super seniors who have five days left of their football career guaranteed. I don’t care who you’re playing, playoffs or not, that should motivate you to give everything you’ve got. That will motivate you to give anything you’ve got,” Stiegelmeier said.
The Jackrabbits and Fighting Hawks will cross paths on Saturday, November 20 at 2 p.m.
Make sure to follow @Tanner_Castora on Twitter for in game updates from Brookings on Saturday.