BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota State offense has the eighteenth best scoring offense in the entire FCS as the Jacks are scoring more than 30 points per game.
SDSU has scored 95 points in their three FCS playoff wins. The team has scored at least 31 points in each of the games and a large part of that success can be credited to true freshman quarterback, Mark Gronowski.
“We really have high expectations for him. He’s got higher expectations for himself. I think the thing that amazed me early was his ability to come off the field and know what happened in just about every play and talk about a way a corner played a route,” Stiegelmeier said. “The concept of a game being played in slow motion is really the way he plays the game at this early age.”
The Jackrabbit offense is rushing for more than 220 yards per game in the postseason, thanks to their three talented running backs in Pierre Strong Jr., Isaiah Davis and Jordan Meachum.
“It’s just really a great combo of running backs. I mean you’ve got Pierre who is just an elusive back who can just make anyone miss,” Gronowski said. “You’ve got Isaiah who can just basically be a bulldozer and run hard through the hole. Then you’ve also got Meachum who is another elusive guy.”
SDSU is now preparing to face Sam Houston State in the FCS National Championship. The Jacks offense will have their hands full against a strong Bearkat front six.
“They’ve got a lot of athletic dudes. They’ve got a couple big guys up front that are run stuffers and they can be athletic in the pass game as well, as I think they lead the country in sacks (37),” SDSU senior offensive lineman Wes Genant said. “They’ve got a really good defense and if I had to name a strength, I would say it is their front six, but they’ve got some good guys in the secondary as well.”
“They’ve got some great guys up front. Recently they had some guys that won an All-American. They’re just a really aggressive bunch. They don’t really blitz a ton, but they really just get in your face,” SDSU freshman quarterback Mark Gronowski said. “The defensive line is a really aggressive bunch I guess, but we’re just going to try and attack their aggressiveness.”
Sam Houston State leads the country in total sacks, while ranking eighth in the FCS for overall rushing defense.
The Jacks have found a lot of success on offense, but Sunday’s championship will present a challenge for State.
“These are the situations where guys really rise up. It’s one of our strengths against, maybe their strength and that’s our personality, that’s our signature is running the football,” SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said. “I think the big guys, the hogs as Wes talked about, they’ll be ready for the challenge and they’ll take a lot of pride in us moving the ball on the ground.”
The battle of the trenches will be key in Frisco, but the Jacks will look to continue their offensive line success as they have allowed just one sack over the past three games.
“It’s a big commitment to each other. I’ll just go back to our mantra, 605 hogs. 60 minutes plus of championship effort, zero excuses, five as one and we’re the hogs so we do the dirty work and we do it for each other and we do it for the offense,” Genant said.
Ground and pound will be the game plan for the Jackrabbits and that’s exactly how SDSU wants to play.
“You can just feel the energy in the huddle. Everyone kind of looks at each other in the eye and we’re seven or eight run plays deep or seven or eight plays of power deep and we look at each other and say ‘alright, we’re going to finish this drive out running the ball,” Genant said. “Either that, or they’re going to sell out and we’re going to throw it over their head. It’s a nice feeling to look at the guy next to you in the huddle and they have that gritty look in their eye and we’re just going to keep grinding this out.”
SDSU and Sam Houston State will cross paths in Frisco on Sunday, May 16. Kick-off is set for 1:00 p.m.