BROOKINGS – For the first time since 2013, the South Dakota State football team will take on North Dakota.
This time it will be a top-15 matchup in Grand Forks, N.D., as the Jackrabbits are ranked No. 3 and the Fighting Hawks are ranked No. 15. Kickoff between the Fighting Hawks and Jackrabbits is scheduled for noon on Saturday at the Alerus Center.
The Jacks won the last matchup 35-28 on the road. The teams also met in 2010 in Brookings – the first matchup in the Division I era – with the Jackrabbits coming away with a 21-0 victory.
The series began over a century ago and the first meeting was in 1906. SDSU came away with a 5-4 victory. UND leads the series 46-34-5.
SDSU is coming off a season-opening 24-20 victory over Northern Iowa, which was ranked No. 3 at the time. The Jacks won the game with good defense and running the football. SDSU held UNI to 193 total yards and 28 yards rushing.
“I was very impressed [with the defense],” said SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier. “I was more impressed with our coaches grading them really, really hard and telling them we’re not where we need to be yet. So you have a performance where you limit them to under 200 yards of total offense, 1.1 yards per carry rushing the ball yet you have coaches saying ‘we’re not good enough yet. You have to do this, that and the other thing.’ And that’s the championship mentality,” Stiegelmeier said.
Additionally, Pierre Strong Jr. had 91 of SDSU’s 116 rushing yards.
Freshman quarterback Mark Gronowski, who made his first career start against UNI, was 19-for-29 with 194 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 24 yards and a touchdown, but did have one fumble.
UND also won its season opener as they knocked off 23rd-ranked Southern Illinois 44-21.
The Fighting Hawks had 241 total rushing yards. Otis Weah led the way with 91 yards and a touchdown and Luke Skona had 70 yards.
Quarterback Tommy Schuster was 15-for-23 with 118 yards and three touchdowns.
The Fighting Hawks defense stepped up big time, forcing five turnovers. Four of those turnovers they converted into points. SIU did however have 323 total yards of offense.
“I’m certain that because [UND] hasn’t been a member of the Missouri Valley they have pushed the fact that [the MVFC] talks about how good we are and they weren’t a member, so they needed to come in with all guns blazing and they did. They proved they belong. … [UND] played really aggressive defense, so it was tough to get anything going against them for SIU. Very impressed with the physical part of their play in every phase of the game. That’s something that some teams don’t do in the Missouri Valley. More finesse. This is old school football. They’re going to run the ball, play hard-nose defense and they’re going to be sound on special teams,” Stiegelmeier said.
Stiegelmeier said Gronowski is still the starter for SDSU at quarterback. He also said Keaton Heide was the backup quarterback over J’Bore Gibbs for the UNI game.
“… This week we [decide who is going to be the back up] by grades. Obviously Mark gets a huge number of the reps and the other guys are battling for who would be the guy who would go in if we need a second quarterback. Part of it is attitude and part of it is how they carry themselves because if Mark goes down we need a guy who walks into the huddle and takes over and both of those guys can do that and will do that,” Stiegelmeier said.