South Dakota State used a 28 point first quarter in last season’s South Dakota Showdown game to run away with a 49-27 win over USD. With the Jackrabbits having won the last ten contests, SDSU currently holds a four game lead on the all time series.
“During fall camps we talk about rivalries with North Dakota State and USD and we have the scores in the MAD manual and after that we play in the present. We don’t look back and so we’re looking forward to this game and a chance to say something to the nation,” SDSU football coach John Stiegelmeier said.
“Past ten years obviously doesn’t mean anything at this point. The only one that matters is on Saturday. It’s kind of cool to keep the streak alive, but we don’t really talk about it too much,” SDSU senior linebacker Christian Rozeboom said.
This year’s contest features some playoff situations for the Jackrabbits. SDSU is 8-3 and with a win over USD, the Jacks should find themselves as a top 8 seed in the FCS playoffs, which would earn them a first round bye and a home playoff game.
“We told our players that and that was one of our goals and to address that fact that we played our way back into this situation, I think it’s exciting. It’s not nerve racking, it’s what we want to be doing,” Stiegelmeier said.
“The first round bye is huge, just getting our bodies back and letting the coaches break down film from through out the season that we’ve struggled with and then the two teams that are playing ahead of us. With playoff implications and then the rivalry game, it’ll be a fun game,” Rozeboom said.
USD has a lot to play for as well as the Yotes will host their 2019 Senior day. The Yotes will lose ten seniors after this season which makes this game even more important.
“This is our last game of the season so I mean it’s our bowl game and this is what we’ve had left and I mean, every one from even today have given relentless effort. Everyone knows that we have five or six days of football left, so I mean you’ve got to give it your all and it’s coming down to the end of it and this is it for nine seniors,” USD senior defensive lineman Darin Greenfield said.
The Coyote offense is the second best scoring offense in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, behind NDSU, as the Yotes are averaging nearly 35 points per contest this season.
“Our tempo is something we’ve got to execute with and it’s a big part of what we do. If we can keep things going, it has the potential to keep teams off balance and they’re the type of defensive team that we need to try and keep off balance,” USD football coach Bob Nielson said.
“Really good on offense, their quarterback is really special. They’re up tempo, so they’re going to run a lot of plays, which we’re not like that, so really hard to practice against,” Stiegelmeier said.
The story of the game will be the USD offense against the SDSU defense. The Jackrabbits are eighth in the country in total defense as they are allowing less than 19 points per game.
“I think it’s just a mind set, it’s a different mind set this year that we just have to produce every week and not that it wasn’t last year, but just being aggressive and not sitting back and letting them do whatever they want,” Rozeboom said.
“They’re good and they’re deep in the defensive front and they play a lot of people. The linebacker core obviously has got a premier player there and they’re good at all three levels. They’re a team that you have to execute against,” Nielson said.
Another interesting part of the game will feature the USD defense against the SDSU offense. The Coyote defense has had their struggles this season and find themselves in seventh for scoring defense in the Missouri Valley, as the Yotes allow nearly 30 points per contest.
“The first thing when you defend them is you’ve got to defend against the run, because that’s really what they want to do. When they’re able to stay on schedule and use the running game to move the football, it makes the life of any quarterback a lot easier, because you’re throwing the ball when you want to throw it, not when you have to throw it,” Nielson said.
The Jackrabbit offense ranks thirty-first in the country as State is scoring over 32 points per game this season, despite having a true freshman at quarterback.
“With a young quarterback, it starts with the coaching staff and getting him the recipe and ingredients for success and if we over burden him or we give him too much or we don’t practice things enough, then we slow him down. Our coaches have done a great job with that,” Stiegelmeier said.
Both SDSU and USD have had their share of injuries and that will factor into the outcome of Saturday’s game. For the Jacks, they will be without leading rusher Pierre Strong Jr. who has rushed for over 1,000 yards this season.
“Well we have really three good running backs and they’re going to be ready and the only difference is we might not run certain plays that are better for Pierre or better for another back and again, that’s our job as coaches,” Stiegelmeier said.
“Well like everybody, we’re got more injuries than we’d like, but you’ve got to play the guys that you have at this point and time in the season and I know these guys will see this as a great opportunity for our team and our program to play really hard,” Nielson said.
For the Coyotes, this is their final game of the 2019 season and they would love to end the year with a win over their in state rival.
“I think that’s the great thing about playing rivalry games at the end of the year. It’s like a bowl game. It’s a game that has meaning no matter what the records are and it’s a game that all of your fan base cares about,” Nielson said.
“I’m getting butterflies right now, just thinking about it. I don’t know how that’s going to feel and obviously, I’m going to love every minute of it. I’ve put the jersey on 45 times, but I don’t think anyone’s going to mean more than this senior day,” Greenfield said.
SDSU will look to win their eleventh straight against the Yotes as the two teams will meet as rivals for the 112th time in school history.
“It’s big, obviously I love rivalry games. I mean USD and NDSU are kind of our two rivals and they’re just a little bit bigger games, but at the end of the day, just win your game on Saturday and that is all that matters,” Rozeboom said.
“It’s a blessing and I get to say I get to do something I love and not a lot of people can say they did that as long as I have. I like having the rivalry and the tension in the game and you can’t say it doesn’t mean more, because rivalries mean more. It’s just always more fun,” SDSU junior defensive lineman Xavier Ward said.
The Jackrabbits and Coyotes will cross paths in the Dakota Dome on Saturday, with kick-off at 2:00.