Jeff Kolpack, Published October 25 2013
UNI, SDSU play a loser-out gameFARGO – It seemed unlikely a month ago that Northern Iowa and South Dakota State would be playing each other with the intent of staying out of the Missouri Valley Football Conference cellar. But that is what’s at stake Saturday in Brookings, S.D.
Both are still in the FCS playoff hunt but opportunities are dwindling. The Panthers have dropped three straight and are 4-3 overall. Two of those were in overtime to Southern Illinois and South Dakota and one was by a point at North Dakota State.
“We didn’t win those games and that’s the frustrating part,” said UNI head coach Mark Farley.
SDSU, meanwhile, has dropped four of its last five and is 4-4 overall. The Jackrabbits would have to win their last four and hope 8-4 will be good enough for the FCS selection committee.
The fact the Jacks are playing 12 games this season could keep them in the playoff talk. That kind of chatter, however, is the farthest thing from head coach John Stiegelmeier’s mind.
“We’ve just played poorly,” he said. “For me, it’s not Northern Iowa, it’s South Dakota State. What do we need to do to play better?”
Poor field conditions could factor into the game. The natural grass surface at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium has fell victim this year to poor weather.
“That probably will be the biggest factor,” Farley said. “The way it looked to me, that field was in rough shape in the Southern (Illinois) game.”
USD wins three straight after changing QBs
Suddenly, the University of South Dakota finds itself in the playoff hunt. The
38-31 double-overtime win at UNI was the third straight win for the 4-3 Coyotes.
But after Illinois State Saturday, USD still has to play Youngstown State, Montana, SDSU and NDSU.
“It’s a rugged schedule from here on in,” said Coyotes head coach Joe Glenn.
A change in quarterbacks to Kevin Earl has helped. He’s 3-0 as a starter with all three victories involving fourth-quarter comebacks. Defensively, USD intercepted UNI quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen three times. He went into the game with just one interception all season.
“You just keep sawing wood,” Glenn said of his team’s improved outlook. “You coach, train and work hard on it. Your kids just have to keep believing and sooner or later, things start falling into place.”
Etc. etc. etc.
• Southern Illinois is off Saturday, but the week was important since starting quarterback Kory Faulkner looks to be done for the season with a broken finger suffered against NDSU. “There’s more sense of urgency than a normal off week,” said head coach Dale Lennon.
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.
Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia