College football: Jackrabbits look to cap off perfect regular season against Missouri State
BROOKINGS — South Dakota State football will look to make history on Saturday as the Jackrabbits will attempt to be the first team in program history to finish the regular season with a perfect record.
SDSU enters Saturday’s matchup with Missouri State with a record of 10-0 and is also hoping to win their second consecutive outright Missouri Valley Football Conference title. Last week the Jacks clinched a share of the title with a 34-0 win over Youngstown State and that made it the first time since 1963 that SDSU had won consecutive conference titles as the Jacks won three straight North Central Conference championships from 1961-63.
The 1926 South Dakota State team went 8-0-3 and the 1950 team went 9-0-1, but no team in program history has ever won all of its regular season games. SDSU head coach Jimmy Rogers said it would be special to go undefeated and it’s a sign of what the standard is for the football program moving forward.
“I think that says a lot. It’s a statement for the youth of this football program that this is the expectation. Will it always happen? No. Is it special? Yeah. I’ve been on a lot of teams in my life, growing up and [at SDSU], and I’ve never been undefeated. It’s hard to do that and there’s a certain pride in that. That should be motivation enough to go out and play our best football on Saturday,” Rogers said.
GOING TO THE GAME?
• What: Missouri State at South Dakota State
• When: 2 p.m. Saturday
• Where: Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings
• The series (14th meeting): The Jackrabbits hold a 12-1 record against the Bears and have won the past seven meetings.
• 2023 records: SDSU 10-0, 7-0; MSU 4-6, 3-4
• TV: Midco Sports, ESPN+
• Radio: AM 910 KJJQ
• Game notes: SDSU is looking to finish with a perfect regular season record for the first time in program history.
The Jacks have won back-to-back conference titles for the first time since 1961-63.
SDSU has won 24-straight games, which is tied for the fourth-longest streak in the FCS history.
Missouri State comes into the game with an overall record of 4-6 and the Bears are 3-4 in the MVFC. They are coming off of a 35-16 win over No. 15 ranked Northern Iowa. MSU is giving up 420.4 yards per game and 29.8 points per game, both of which are 10th in the MVFC. Against UNI the Bears gave up just 182 yards and 16 points.
Rogers said it seemed like the Bears came out with some motivation against UNI and did a good job of communicating on the defensive side.
“You could just see there was a level of communication and physicality that they played with in [the Northern Iowa] game. I think their guys just kind of cut it loose more than anything else. They do have talent, there’s no question about that. … This is a dangerous team that has great players and we need to be ready to play our best football,” Rogers said.
The Bears offense is averaging 31.1 points and 407 yards per game, which are sixth and tied for fourth in the MVFC. Jordan Pachot is the quarterback for the Bears and he’s thrown for 2,204 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Raylen Sharpe leads the MVFC in receiving yards per game, averaging 100.6 yards per contest. Jacardia Wright is fifth in the MVFC in rushing, averaging 69.6 yards per game.
Saturday will be senior day for SDSU. The Jackrabbits have 34 seniors on their roster, but due to COVID no one is certain who all is graduating. Two players that are for sure graduating are sixth year offensive linemen Mason McCormick and Garret Greenfield. McCormick and Greenfield have played a big part in the transformation of the SDSU football program that led to the first national championship and the current 24-game win streak. Rogers said both players will live in Jackrabbit lore with fans and how they recruit moving forward.
“I think [McCormick and Greenfield] have set the standard of how to play O line here. When you have such a high caliber player, you recruit him that way. You think, how does this player compare to Mason McCormick or Garret Greenfield? That will probably always be the comparison moving forward at guard and tackle, just because you’ve had success with those guys,” Rogers said.
The players that will be done after this season have certainly left their mark on the program. Even if the Jacks don’t win another title this year, this senior class will live in infamy as the class that finally brought a national title back to Brookings. Rogers added that the way they have shown the younger guys how to win and work hard will pay dividends down the road.
“You leave your legacy in what you give to other people. We’ve done a really good job of recruiting well-rounded student-athletes that invest in the youth of the football program and then when the youth becomes older they become that person. When you have great role models at the top, there’s something for our younger guys to aim for and say, ‘I’m going to be this person in a year and this person at the end of my career and someone that people look up to.’ I think that’s always driving motivation and we just have high-caliber players right now that are seniors,” Rogers said.
Win or lose Saturday, SDSU has itself up for a first-round bye in the FCS Playoffs, which starts next weekend. Rogers said he is looking forward to the bye week even though the Jacks are relatively healthy at this point in the season.
“Where we sit healthwise right now, I feel solid, but the guys do need a break. To kind of recharge after this game, I think it’s always a positive. I think you can get guys back who are kind of dinged up or you can get guys back whose legs are kind of tired and we can be reenergized for what we expect to be a run at the title,” Rogers said.
SDSU and Missouri State will kick things off at 2 p.m. on Saturday. You can watch the game on ESPN+ or listen to the game on AM 910 KJJQ.