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Jeff Kolpack, Published December 06 2013

Jackrabbits prepare for game on the red turf

FARGO – There is no such thing as playing football on a normal field for South Dakota State this week. Three days before playing on the red artificial turf of Eastern Washington, the Jackrabbits had to practice in a gymnasium in Brookings, S.D.

The winter storm that struck the Upper Midwest this week forced SDSU to work out in a venue more comfortable for a basketball team. A football team?

Not so much.

“It’s had a huge (impact),” SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said earlier this week.

Working on run-game principles is normally doable in a close-knit setting, but the problem really surfaces when it comes to the passing game. The SDSU offense and scout team offense could not work on any type of mid-range to deep patterns.

“Mainly, just trying to be positive, you can’t make excuses,” Stiegelmeier said. “We played it up to be advantage to Eastern Washington, so what are you going to do about it? Watch more film and play full speed, even in a gym.”

The last Missouri Valley Football Conference team to play at EWU’s Roos Field was North Dakota State in the 2010 FCS quarterfinals, which resulted in a 38-31 Eagles win in overtime.

It wasn’t looking promising SDSU would reach this point after losing convincingly at Missouri State, which dropped the Jacks to 4-4 overall.

At about that point during a weekly Missouri Valley teleconference call, Stiegelmeier referred to his team’s conference title chances as “dead in the water.” But the Jacks were not yet eliminated from an at-large playoff berth.

“We knew we had to win out,” Stiegelmeier said. “Thank goodness the players are more resilient and more positive than the head coach.”

Weather differential striking for C. Carolina

The NDSU and Furman winner gets the winner of Coastal Carolina at Montana, a game that will be played in wintery conditions today in Missoula, Mont. The forecast is for a high temperature in the single digits at outdoor Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

When Coastal Carolina left its home in Conway, S.C., on Friday, temperatures were in the 70s. The thermometer differential is all fine with Montana senior linebacker Brock Coyle, who on this week’s Big Sky Conference teleconference said “a lot of us Montana boys are used to this cold weather.”

“We’re not going to be affected by the cold weather,” he said. “We’re excited to go out there and play playoff football. It’s do or die.”

The Grizzlies will face a Chanticleers team that is third in the FCS in scoring offense averaging 43.0 points per game. The key to its offense, Coyle said, is running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, whose 1,572 yards is sixth in the FCS.

Etc. etc. etc.

The Missouri Valley is 51-33 in the FCS playoffs since 1997, including four national championships: NDSU in 2011 and 2012, Youngstown State in 1997 and Western Kentucky in 2002. A league member has reached the semifinals in 13 of the past 17 years.

SDSU running back Zach Zenner needs 56 yards to reach 2,000 for the second straight season.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia