BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota State football team is back in the FCS playoffs for the ninth consecutive season, but this year, they’ll be the highest seed in the tournament.
A day after claiming a 27-17 win over NDSU to claim the Dakota Marker trophy, SDSU was named the top-seed in the FCS playoffs for the first time in school history.
“We really feel fortunate to be the number one team in the FCS Playoffs. I believe we are that team and now we need to go out, like I told the team last night, is that we need to go out and prove that,” SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said. “That’s by having great practices, being 1-0 everyday and attempting to play our best football of the year come Saturday.”
SDSU will now prepare for the first round of the playoffs as the Jacks will play back-to-back games in consecutive weeks for the first time in more than a month.
“In a normal season, if we’re a seed, one of the top seeds you get a bye and you rejoice in that, because you’ve gone, eleven, ten, eight games in a row or eight weeks in a row, but we’re ready. We just had three weeks off,” Stiegelmeier said. “We just played a good football team and won and so, we want to build on that momentum. We’re excited about it and to have a bye now, would be really awkward.”
“In the senior goals in January, the second goal was to be COVID-19 free and they were so focused on that concept and the importance of that, they made it one of their season goals,” Stiegelmeier said. “You’ll never see that in another season goals. You’ll see 1-0, you’ll see a national championship, you’ll see win all the home games and that stuff, which are kind of general, but this one was kind of specific for this year and this time. Again, I’ll give credit to the leadership of the football team.”
Now SDSU will prepare to face Holy Cross in the first round of the FCS playoffs.
“They play good defense. They’re very consistent on defense. I don’t think they’re trying to win their game as a coaching staff, but allow their players to line up and play,” Stiegelmeier said. “For most part, a base defense, they’ll change it up, but they really want to be in base. Offensively, it revolves around their quarterback and they run the ball for a lot of yards.”
One thing that both the Jacks and Crusaders have in common is their lack of games. SDSU has played just six games in the last nine weeks, while Holy Cross has played only three games all season.
“We only have three games as well, so I think we’ve been practicing just the same, you know just as long. I think that could level the playing field just a little bit as far as scheme is concerned,” Holy Cross head coach Bob Chesney said. “We still have the games that are exchanged that are equal with each other, so it is kind of, what it is. They’re going to go off our three, we’re going to go off their three and then we’ll see what happens when we get there on Saturday.”
Holy Cross will have their hands full in their fourth NCAA playoff appearance.
“It’s the number one team in the country right, and that’s what we hope to line up against and really get a challenge and chance to see where we stand right,” Chesney said. “Where exactly are we, where are we strong, where are we weak and this is a huge test for our program, but also just a great barometer of where our program is and where it needs to be.”
The Jackrabbits have earned their top-seed following a strong 5-1 season, however the team must now find a way to cancel out the noise.
“Our mental strength coach, Kris Kracht addressed the team last night, he wanted to address them early in the week and he talked about that,” Stiegelmeier said. “He called it noise and all the noise they’re getting about them being the number one seed, we being the number one seed and we having an easy road to wherever and stuff and he said you need to eliminate that.”
SDSU and Holy Cross will meet on Saturday, April 24 in Brookings. Kick-off is set for 2:00 p.m.