BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — SDSU is hoping to return to the FCS Semifinals for the fourth time in the past five seasons, but first they’ll need a win against five seed Villanova in the quarterfinals.
SDSU earned a trip to the FCS Quarterfinals for the fifth time in the past six seasons, thanks to a 24-19 win over Sacramento State that saw the Jacks score the first 24 points and the Hornets score the game’s final 19 points.
“We did have a great first half. We had a way below average second half. So the challenge there is to play a complete game always and realize moving forward if we play like that again, we’re going to have to put our pads away,” SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said. “I think it really became a challenge for our guys, not a disappointing thing, but a challenge to be better every player on the field.”
Following their hard-fought win, the Jackrabbits found out their next game would be on the other side of the country, in Pennsylvania.
“The fact that we got back to town Sunday morning at 6:30 a.m. and had treatments then, because we wanted our guys when they got back to be able to get a good night sleep if they hadn’t on the plane,” Stiegelmeier said. “Then to lose an hour the next time we fly, again it’s about a three hour trip. It’s very hard on the body.”
Similar to SDSU, Villanova’s offense relies on the ground game as the Wildcats are rushing for 175 yards per contest this season.
“We really start our game planning always that way. Even if a team is predominantly pass, we have to have a scheme and a mentality that we’re going to stop the run,” Stiegelmeier said. “In our games, when we’ve been able to run the ball effectively with great success, that’s a huge factor in a football game.”
The Jackrabbits 14th best offense will have its’ hands full come Saturday. Villanova owns the third best defense in the country as they are allowing less than 270 yards per contest.
“Their ability to not gimmick and line up in base defense and everybody knows what they’re doing and they do it full speed,” Stiegelmeier said. “I mean, they do change some stuff up, but I think if they had their way, they would line up in base defense and just say ‘show me you can move the ball.’ They’re really, really good.”
SDSU was the lone unseeded team to win in the second round. Saturday, the Jackrabbits will look to continue that success in the quarterfinals.
“Our mental performance coach has told our team, and it’s his research so if it’s wrong, blame him, but no unseeded team has ever won the national championship,” Stiegelmeier said. “I think our guys embrace statements like that and say, let’s be part of history.”
SDSU and Villanova will cross paths on Saturday in Villanova, Pennsylvania. Kick-off is set for 1 p.m. and you can follow the action on our live blog on KELOLAND.com.