It's all come down to this once again for the Jackrabbits. After a 37-17 loss to North Dakota State in the Dakota Marker game last Saturday in the Fargodome, South Dakota State sits at 5-4 overall and 2-3 in Missouri Valley conference play. If the Jacks want to make the playoffs for the third year in a row, it's very simple, they need to win out to finish 8-4. They may also need some help from other teams in the conference to even have a shot at the postseason. Alas, as the cliche goes, SDSU can only control what it does, so winning three in a row is the task at hand.
And speaking of cliches, we all know the "one game / one play at a time" mantra. We'd all be millionaires if we collected a royalty every time we heard a coach or player saying it. Teams do have to focus on the task at hand, but guess what? We're all human and we look ahead. Coaches and players have a tough time admitting it, but they do. And while I'm not singling anyone out at SDSU, my larger point is there's no point in beating around the bush. Let's look ahead to the final three games of SDSU's regular season. Tom Nieman and I review the NDSU game and look ahead in this SDSU-Tube video blog below:
The first test (and in my opinion, the toughest) will come this Saturday in Terre Haute, Indiana. It's the final regular season road game as South Dakota State plays Indiana State, a team that's MUCH improved from last year's abysmal 1-win campaign. The Sycamores used to be defined by running back Shakir Bell. But now that he's gone, Indiana State is very much a passing team. We talked with radio analyst Tom James earlier this week. He has his thoughts on the team below:
This game will be the key for the Jacks, since the two weeks after the Indiana State game feature the two worst teams (record-wise) in the conference with Western Illinois and South Dakota, both at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium. This isn't meant to dismiss the Leathernecks or the Coyotes, but the Sycamores game is the lynchpin. If SDSU can win this weekend, I firmly believe they will beat Western Illinois and USD to finish 8-4.
Will that be enough for the postseason this year? I think national analysts are starting to recognize how deep the MVFC is and won't repeat last year's mistake of only allowing two teams into the playoffs. Now, that could mean just three get in, but that still gives SDSU a shot (with NDSU and Illinois State pretty much locks at this point). It's going to be a very interesting final three weeks. Remember, SDSU was 4-4 last year and ran the table to get to 8-4 and make the playoffs. Now, they're 5-4 and have to do the same.
The return of QB Austin Sumner didn't translate to a win at NDSU, but it did give the team a direction heading into this final stretch. I personally thought he moved around fairly well in the Fargodome. He said this week on Jackrabbit Journal that he wasn't as sore this week as he has been, so that's a good sign. But, freshman WR standout Jake Wieneke hurt his leg in the Dakota Marker game and his status for Saturday is still unknown.
Injuries have unfortunately been a sticking point for SDSU this season. But like every team, the Jacks just have to keep on fighting through them. I will be in Terre Haute with the team on Saturday and we'll break everything down from the Indiana State game on next week's Jackrabbit Journal.