Two weeks ago I began to take a look at the South Dakota State football team’s 2020 schedule and previewed their first two opponents. Today, I will take a look at their third opponent in 2020 and which is their first conference opponent, the Indiana State Sycamores.
Sept. 26 vs. Indiana State
Last year, the Jacks went into Terre Haute, Ind. and pummeled the Sycamores 42-23. It was the most points SDSU scored in Missouri Valley play and they led 35-10 at halftime.
ISU finished last year with an overall record of 5-7 and a record of 3-5 in the conference. They started out the season 0-2, but their losses were close and against refutable teams. They lost to Kansas, an FBS school, 24-17 and Dayton, who went 8-3 last season, 42-35. They then rattled off two wins against Eastern Kentucky and Eastern Illinois to put them at 2-2.
That’s where things kind of fell off the wagon for the Sycamores. They lost five of their next six games, including a 38-0 loss to South Dakota and the 42-23 loss to SDSU. They finished the season with back-to-back wins against Youngstown State and Missouri State.
ISU returns their top-three skill players from last season. They return their quarterback Kurtis Wilderman who played in nine games last season and started three of them. He threw for 1,170 yards with a completion percentage of just under 69%. He threw six touchdowns and four interceptions. Anthony Thompson, who transferred from Northern Illinois will likely compete with Wilderman for the starting job. He is a redshirt senior and only saw five games with the Huskies, but probably has some sort of talent coming from an FBS school.
Indiana State was seventh in the Missouri Valley in rush yards per game last year averaging 179 per game. They return their leading rusher in Peterson Kerlegrand who ran for 746 yards and three touchdowns last season. They did however lose Dominiq Dafney who led the team with seven touchdowns.
The Sycamores return their leading receiver from last season and will need to get him the ball as they only threw for 166.8 yards per game last season. Dante Hendrix led the team in 2019 with 653 yards on 51 catches and had two touchdowns. T
The Sycamores landed another FBS transfer at the wide receiver position as Harry Van Dyne came from Minnesota. He only saw action in a couple of games last season for the Gophers, but will likely be a key addition to the Sycamores as he was the No. 2 prospect in Kansas coming out of high school.
Indiana State was right in the middle of the pack in the MVFC last season on defense. They were fifth in both scoring and total defense giving up 22.8 points and 338.3 yards per game. Those numbers are pretty good considering the only teams in front of them were North Dakota State, SDSU, Northern Iowa and Illinois State, all of whom made the FCS Playoffs in 2019.
The Sycamores may struggle on defense in 2020 though as they lost their top-two leading tacklers from 2019 in linebackers Jonas Griffith and Clayton Glasco. Griffith had 106 tackles, which was third overall in the MVFC. The Sycamores now have a very young linebacking core which may make things tough.
ISU does return their top sack getter in defensive lineman Henrik Barndt who had five sacks in 2019. Even though they will have experience up front, they are young in the back. ISU only has one senior defensive back on their roster. This may expose them even though they ranked second in the MVFC against the pass last year giving up just 162.9 yards per game.
SDSU was able to put up 452 total yards of offense last season on ISU and I see much of the same happening this year. The Sycamores did however put up 338 yards of offense of their own, but they turned the ball over four times which resulted in the game being a blowout. I expect the Sycamores will be able to hang in with the Jacks in the first half, but then their youth will show and the Jacks will pull away for a victory in their third game of the season.
In my first opponent preview story, I predicted the Jacks would beat Butler in their first game and lose to Nebraska in their second game. This would now put them at 2-1 on the season heading into a stretch where they play MVFC newcomer North Dakota and rivals NDSU and USD who I will preview in the next article.