BROOKINGS – South Dakota State got its running game going in the second half of a 38-10 blowout win over Drake Saturday.
The Jacks racked up 369 yards on the ground and 534 total yards. Pierre Strong Jr. led SDSU with 129 yards and one touchdown. C.J. Wilson had 117 yards and wide receiver had one carry for 76 yards. Johnson also had a big game receiving with five catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns
The running game was something that head coach John Stiegelmeier emphasized during the week leading up to the game and his team did not disappoint.
“[Strong and Wilson] are both good players and have their own knack. We should run the ball well. In football you should be able to say ‘this guy has to tackle this guy’ and they should be able to beat some guys in the open field,” Stiegelmeier said.
One of the reasons the Jacks emphasized the run game was because it was their second-straight game without starting quarterback J’Bore Gibbs, who hurt his pinky against Minnesota. Kanin Nelson got the start once again and went 12-for-18 for 159 yards, two touchdowns and a fumble.
“I thought Kanin played ok. I thought we put Kanin in some situations where it wasn’t his forte. To lead and throw the deep ball. There were very few short balls that he threw. There was some screens and stuff. I thought he managed the rest of the game very well,” Stiegelmeier said.
Stiegelmeier said the athletic trainer told him it would be much safer to not play Gibbs this week, but it’s looking like Gibbs will be healthy for next week’s game against Southern Utah.
SDSU’s continued to play well. They limited Drake to 57 yards rushing and 289 yards total.
Linebacker Logan Backhaus, who had six tackles on the day, said that he still thinks the Jacks defense hasn’t played their best football yet.
“Obviously we haven’t played as well as we can. We’re getting better every week ... We just have to keep escalating till the end of the season and hopefully by the end of the season we’re playing our best ball,” he said.
SDSU intercepted quarterback Ian Corwin two times on the day and sacked him twice as well. Even with SDSU’s dominant defensive performance, Stiegelmeier said Drake did good job of keeping the Jacks on their toes defensively.
“I thought we handled the trades and shifts very well … I was disappointed in our pass defense and our run defense at times … I think Drake is gonna win some football games this year. I think their quarterback played very well,” he said.
The Jackrabbits offensive line performed well in the run game, but the passing game was a different story. Nelson was sacked three times on the day and Stiegelmeier was not happy about that.
“I was disappointed in the holding penalties and was really disappointed in the sacks,” Stiegelmeier said. “But I’ll have to watch the tape to see is a guy open to throw to. Because you can’t pass block for 4 1/2 seconds. But I was disappointed in the sacks. I really was.”
Even though SDSU has outscored its opponents 76-13 in their past two games, Strong and offensive lineman Evan Greenway agreed with Backhaus and said the Jacks have not been playing their best football. Stiegelmeier said his players and himself need to be accountable and get better.
“Everybody has to flip their own switch. Motivation is internal. It doesn’t come from me, it doesn’t come from coordinators. In the end it falls on my shoulders. We’ll see as competition gets tougher,” Stiegelmeier said.