Jeff Kolpack, Published October 04 2013
Critical game looms at South Dakota StateFARGO – It’s early in the Missouri Valley Football Conference season, but it’s possible a playoff loser-out game may loom in Brookings, S.D., today. Southern Illinois and South Dakota State, two teams that appear to have playoff-caliber talent, are in need of a victory to steer them in that direction.
The Jackrabbits did not fall out of the top 10 in the FCS top 25 coaches poll after a 20-0 defeat to North Dakota State last weekend. Yet, they’re 3-2 and could use a quality victory to boost their resume.
SIU is in deeper need at
2-3. All three losses were tight – one by a point, one in overtime and an eight-point FBS loss to Illinois – but they are still defeats nonetheless.
“We think we’re a good football team. We need to find a way to finish it off,” said Salukis head coach Dale Lennon.
SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier, meanwhile, would like to see his defensive line – considered the strength of the team – play up to preseason expectations. And he said the running game, which was non-existent against North Dakota State, is a matter of executing the blocking scheme.
Lennon said a big factor in SDSU running back Zach Zenner being held to four yards on eight carries last week by North Dakota State was the Bison didn’t have to get too fancy with their defensive scheme. For instance, he said NDSU didn’t have to overload the line of scrimmage in an effort to stop the run.
“NDSU is just very solid all the way through,” Lennon said. “All 11 guys out there are pretty good and what that allows them to do is play a lot of base defense.
Unlike past years, the expanded FCS playoff field to 24 teams could help a slow-starting Valley team that can string together some wins in the last half of the season.
“If you’re playing well the second half of the season, I think you deserve to be in the playoffs,” said Illinois State head coach Brock Spack.
USD contemplating change at quarterback
It’s not secret the University of South Dakota has struggled on offense this season not scoring more than 16 points in any of its four games. That’s led to speculation that the Coyotes may change quarterbacks today when they host Missouri State.
Junior Josh Vander Maten started the first four games, but was just 8 of 21 for 26 yards in a 24-10 loss at Western Illinois. Sophomore Kevin Earl came in to lead the Coyotes on their lone touchdown drive.
Both quarterbacks were not made available to the media this week.
“We’re struggling to get points on the board and we think we’re better than that,” said USD head coach Joe Glenn.
At least the Coyotes will face a 3-4 defense from Missouri State. It’s the same philosophy USD uses.
The Bears, however, are coming off their first win – an impressive 37-10 of an Illinois State that was once ranked in the top 25.
“Our bugaboo is we’ve turned the ball over and haven’t been able to produce any turnovers defensively, which we’ve done in the past,” Spack said.
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia