The Press Box Sports

South Dakota State and Youngstown State Collide in FCS Marquee Matchup

FCS Football

Two FCS Football top-ten teams will face off Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium in Youngstown, OH. The #4 South Dakota State Jackrabbits are looking to stay unbeaten as they go up against #5 Youngstown State. It won’t be easy beating the Penguins though. Youngstown State has outscored both FCS opponents this year by a score of 89-9. They nearly beat Pitt, losing 28-21 in overtime. Both of these teams have high scoring offenses and stout defenses so fans will see a great game. We’ll also see two great coaches in Bo Pelini and John Stiegelmeier. Pelini was hired by the Penguins after going 67-27 with the Nebraska Cornhuskers. He led Youngstown state to the FCS championship game last season against James Madison. Stiegelmeier has been at the helm for the Jackrabbits since 1997 and is coming off one of his better performances in 2016.


Quarterback, Taryn Christion, is a playmaker for the Jackrabbits. He’s an accurate passer and has great mobility as he also leads the team in rushing. South Dakota State is averaging 470 yards offense per game and along with 44 points per game. Dallas Goedert leads all receivers with 16 catches for 210 yards, but Jake Wieneke and Alex Wilde are capable receivers that will contribute as well. Mikey Daniel will see the bulk of the carries at the running back position. The Jackrabbits will rely on a balanced offense behind Christion against a stingy Penguins defense .

Hunter Wells is battling a should injury and there’s no word if he’ll start or at least play against South Dakota State. Nathan Mays has filled in nicely for the Penguins in Wells’ absence. Mays adds another weapon the Youngstown State’s potent rushing attack that is averaging 281 yards per game. Tevin McCaster and Christian Turner is one of the best tandems in FCS Football at the position. McCaster leads the team with 274 rushing yards and Turner follows closely behind with 212 yards. Turner has been another good option at receiver for the Penguins with 8 receptions for 174 yards. Along with Turner, Alvin Bailey and Kevin Rader are the top receivers on the team as they combine for 20 catches a 260 yards. The Penguins can balance it out on offense, but it depends who starts at quarterback. No word on Wells yet and Pelini could platoon between the two guys.

South Dakota State can be a little vulnerable on defense. The Jackrabbits gave up 491 yards to Montana State. Linebackers, Christian Rozeboom, Eric Kleinschmit, and Logan Backhaus are the key defenders for South Dakota State. Rozeboom and Kleinschmit will aid in stopping the running game while Backhaus will provide solid pass coverage. he already has two picks on the year. Defensive end, Austin Smenda has been the best pass rusher so far for the Jackrabbits. As a unit, South Dakota State is giving up 358 yards per game and Just 16.7 points per game.

The secondary for Youngstown State has been spectacular against the pass, but are relied upon too much in their rushing Defense. Safeties Jalyn Powell and Kyle Hegedus, are great tacklers, but can be relied on too often in the running game. That will leave the cornerbacks one-on-one with the receivers and that could be a bad thing in this game. On the defensive line, Justus Reed, Fazson Chapman, and Wesley Thompson have terrorized quarterbacks this season. The trio have combined for 10 sacks, resulting in -57 yards. Youngstown State is giving up 253 yards per game and 12.3 points per game.

What To Expect:

The game shouldn’t be a high-scoring shootout, but it also won’t be a defensive battle. The Jackrabbits will use Christion’s agility and ability to throw on the run to counter the Penguins pass rush. Expect South Dakota State to attempt to bait the Penguins with outside runs to get the safeties to move in close. Hopefully allowing Goedert to have several one-on-one matchups. Look for them to call a significant increase of running plays. The goal is to open up the passing game. Let the Youngstown State safeties creep up and then beat them with mid-range passes. On defense, expect the Jack Rabbits to put more men in the box and force Youngstown State to throw the ball more. The linebacker unit will make or break the Jackrabbits on defense. Balancing between rushing and passing defense will be critical.

Bo Pelini will have a more aggressive approach to this game. The Penguins will beat down the defensive line with their rushing attack and try to take command of the game early. Both McCaster and Turner should see a lot of carries in this game. The offensive game-plan will depend on who starts a quarterback. Wells is more of a pocket-passer, while Mays does better when pressured. On defense, the key for Youngstown State to blitz, blitz some more, and then keep blitzing. They want Christion running for his life in hopes of him making a couple of mistakes. The key is to contain Christion, if they can do that, they’ll most likely take control of the game.

Game Time and Where to Watch:

The game will take place on Saturday, 9/30, 7pm, at Stambaugh Stadium in Youngstown, OH. The game will also be broadcasted on ESPN3.

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