BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota State Jackrabbits fell 44-21 to NDSU, last December in the FCS semifinals, concluding a 10-3 season and ending the careers of SDSU’s winningest senior class.
“I think we’ve reached a point where we are just able to reload every year instead of rebuilding,” SDSU tight end Kallan Hart said. “You know we lost Jake and Dallas and we just had some other guys step into those roles. One person, or a new quarterback might not replace everything that Taryn did, but as a team you know, between the run game and everything, we just have to step in to work together to fill that role.”
For the first time in four seasons, the Jackrabbits will be without starting quarterback Taryn Christion, who threw for over 11,000 yards and more than 100 touchdowns in his career. Now SDSU will turn to a red shirt freshman to take the snaps at quarterback.
“We don’t have that four time starting ‘QB’, but what I’ve seen from the ‘QB’ position is a lot of competing and as far as receivers go, we’ve been working as hard as we can during the summer to make sure we are out throwing with them as much as we can,” SDSU wide receiver Adam Anderson said.
“Well J’Bore Gibbs is going to start. We had talked at one point about maybe playing two guys, but we’re not going to play two guys, he’s the guy. We’re not going to ask him to do more than he can do in his first game against a Big Ten opponent and I really think he is going to rise up and really surprise all of us,” SDSU Head Coach John Stiegelmeier said.
The Jackrabbits will open the season with a trip to St. Paul and a game against Minnesota. With a new quarterback and offensive coordinator for SDSU, the Golden Gopher defense will have to game plan a little differently, as they have limited resources to study the Jacks offense.
“We like being able to evaluate film of what they’ve actually done. You’ve got a new coordinator and you’ve got a new quarterback, so those always give you sort of an uneasy feeling because you don’t have three weeks of them on film. So what do you have to do? You have to focus more on yourself than you do on your opponent,” Minnesota defensive coordinator Joseph Rossi said.
“When you always bring in a new quarterback, it’s what kind of factor does he have or bring to the table? I just know he’s going to be a good quarterback, I know that’s a good team, they have a good coach. Whatever he brings, I know we’ve just got to prepare for it all,” Minnesota linebacker Thomas Barber said.
State will look for their first win against Minnesota in school history, as SDSU has has lost seven straight match-ups against the Golden Gophers, with the most recent meeting being a 16-13 loss back in 2009.
“Minnesota is a very well coached football team, they’re a very physical football team, offensively, defensively and special teams. They stress you out with their schemes. It’s going to be a good test, you know our guys get up for this type of game, national tv, a local FBS opponent. They’ll know some of the guys that are on that team,” Coach Stiegelmeier said.
“It sounds like they’re going to be pretty similar to us. They’re trying to play some sound ‘D’, run the ball a lot, they have a younger quarterback too so we’ll see what he can do,” Hart said.
The Jackrabbits matched their highest preseason ranking in school history as the FCS media poll has the rabbits ranked 3rd, but this year’s team is keeping their focus on the field.
“Well we’re excited about our ranking but we know it’s from last year’s performance and some guys we carry over and these guys are really mature and they don’t dwell on that, they don’t look at the next game ever, they don’t look at the next play. We’ve got great leadership and it’s an honor to be part of a program with that credibility,” Coach Stiegelmeier said.
“We don’t pay too much attention to all the outside talk because we know what we’ve got to do within the team, but we know what our goals are and what we need to do to achieve those goals. The biggest thing this year is doing the little things and taking one game at a time and if we do that, everything is going to take care of itself,” Anderson said.
The Jackrabbits travel to Minnesota on Thursday. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. and the game will be televised on FS1.