The South Dakota State football team is no stranger to making the postseason. On Sunday, the team gathered to hear their fate, earning the fifth overall seed in the FCS playoffs.
“To be listed as the fifth best team in America, third time in a row we have been a top eight seed, so a lot of tradition, a lot of pride, but now there is expectations with it.” said Head Coach John Stiegelmeier.
With every kick, every touchdown, and every cheer, the Jackrabbits are proving a point to the FCS. This is the seventh consecutive year they’ve earned the spot to be here,
“It's a true family, a true brotherhood and I’m excited about how far they can go,” said Stiegelmeier.
This is year though is different. The fifth-seeded Jacks are without two All-Americans from a year ago in Jake Winiecke and Dallas Goedert. That mixed in with senior star running back C.J. Wilson having a season ending injury in October, Coach Stiegelmeier has had to rely on some of his younger talent to step up more than ever.
“We have had more injuries than we ever had this season, yet we have had guys rise up that we didn’t know were going to rise up. And I think that’s the cool thing about being a coach, just believe in your players and good things will happen,” said Stiegelmeier.
“I had older guys in front of me, actually good guys who were all fighting for spots. I was just praying and my opportunity came, and I just made the best of it,” said redshirt freshman Pierre Strong Junior.
When you aren’t unfamiliar playing into December, you have to sometimes take a different approach. This time around Coach Stiegelmeier wants his players to take day to study the bracket and envision the journey that the postseason brings and have dreams of playing in the national title game.
“Everybody does it, so I told them to do it one time and that’s it. So I gave them the okay, but again I want them to focus on their next opponent,” said Stiegelmeier.
Following the program’s best ever finish a year ago where they made the semi-finals the Jackrabbits aren’t satisfied, and are destined to go even further this time around and make it to Frisco.
“Well we thought we could win a national championship last year, and we’ve had that goal for a number of years and we didn’t get there. So it really came from one of our seniors, our starting center Jacob O saying challenging the team and why not quote a great guy that’s paid the price,” said Stiegelmeier.
“You know kind of a calmness, but you know not satisfied at the same point. Cause you know we’ve been here so many times in a row, and we haven’t gotten to Frisco yet and gotten to play in the national championship game. But you just got to embrace that, nerves I think mean you’re ready, you’re excited for whatever the obstacle is you're about to face,” said senior quarterback Taryn Christion.
The Jackrabbits will host either Towson or Duquesne on December 1st tenatatively at 2:00 p.m. SDSU defeated Duquesne in the regular season last year.