SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Following an impressive 31-3 win over Holy Cross in the first round of the FCS Playoffs, SDSU advanced to the quarterfinal round where they will host a familiar opponent.
The Jackrabbits rushed for 281 yards in their playoff win over Holy Cross.
“That’s our makeup right now, that’s our recipe, if you will and so we game plan like that and we don’t expect that to happen, but we work hard on being able to run the football,” SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said. “That’s discouraging, I don’t care who you are and how tough you are mentally, if you’re able to run the ball and get four and six and ten yards repeatedly and even if they are tough yards, that discourages an entire opponent.”
SDSU is rushing for nearly 240 yards per contest this year, which is sixth best in all of FCS football. That accomplishment can be credited to the communication from the offensive line.
“They talk all the time in practice, I mean it’s really neat to observe that. The guys that are watching are talking to the guys that are playing, the guys that are playing are coming back to the huddle, so they really have become one unit,” Stiegelmeier said. “Maybe that’s the best situation that we’ve ever had, that they’re really unified as an offensive line.”
The Jacks committed eight turnovers through the first four games of the season, but have just one turnover in the last three games. That improvement has hinged on freshman quarterback, Mark Gronowski, as he has been working on ball security.
“It’s him maturing and then it’s him, trusting himself to be able to make a play with his legs, if the throw’s not there,” Stiegelmeier said. “Some of them have been scrambles and then when we call the run, which he had against North Dakota State. He had a run and the guy tried to punch it out and he had great ball security, so it’s just a bunch of things coming together.”
SDSU will now prepare to host a familiar opponent in Missouri Valley Conference foe, Southern Illinois.
“We’ll use some things from the last game plan, but obviously Southern Illinois’ game has changed and we’ve evolved some,” Stiegelmeier said. “I think the biggest thing is, whatever we do, we’ve got an extra day and whatever we do, let’s not do too much and not be too smart as coaches and let our players win the football game.”
State rolled past Southern Illinois, 44-3 back on March 20. SDSU rushed for nearly 400 yards in that contest and that is something they hope to repeat this weekend.
“We’ll try to have a repeat performance. Honestly, I think our performance against Holy Cross was not close to that performance. Why is that? I don’t know that, but give some credit to Holy Cross, but in terms of effort on the field, we weren’t where we were against SIU or NDSU, mentally we weren’t,” Stiegelmeier said. “We’re going to have confidence having beat them 44-3, but we also realize they’re a different team. One thing you can’t manufacture is confidence.”
The Jacks and Salukis will meet on Sunday night in Brookings. Kick-off is set for 8:00 p.m.