South Dakota State football primer: Jackrabbits visit Missouri State for top-10 MVFC clash

·4 min read

Sep. 22—BROOKINGS, S.D. — There's no easing into the Missouri Valley Football Conference schedule for the South Dakota State football program in 2022, as the second-ranked Jackrabbits open conference play on the road at sixth-ranked Missouri State. Here's what to know ahead of the contest:

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

Where: Plaster Stadium, Springfield, Missouri.

Records: SDSU 2-1 overall, 0-0 MVFC; Missouri State 2-1, 0-0 MVFC.

Coaches: SDSU: John Stiegelmeier, 26th season, 187-112; Missouri State: Bobby Petrino, 17th season (third at Missouri State), 134-65 (15-9 at Missouri State).

Last meeting: SDSU and Missouri State haven't been on one another's conference slate since 2019 (prior to the Bobby Petrino era) when the Jackrabbits made the trip to Springfield and left with a 35-14 victory.

Series history: Following SDSU's move to join the MVFC in 2008, the Jackrabbits and Bears squared off in 12 straight seasons. SDSU holds a decisive 11-1 advantage in the series, with the Bears' lone win (a 35-21 final) coming Oct. 19, 2013, in Springfield. The Jackrabbits have won six straight by an average score of 46-17, with only the first meeting in the win streak (2014) decided by fewer than 21 points.

Last week: SDSU wrapped up its nonconference schedule by rolling to a 45-17 home victory over Butler. Missouri State, meanwhile, was on the road for a meeting with No. 10 Arkansas (of the Football Bowl Subdivision), with the Bears falling, 38-27.

Notes:

* After holding sole possession of the No. 2 ranking in the Stats Perform FCS poll since the preseason, SDSU shares the second slot with Montana in the most recent poll. The Jackrabbits received five first-place votes this week after garnering two in every prior poll, with No. 1 North Dakota State getting 43 (down from 54) and Montana grabbing six.

* The Bears moved down from fifth to sixth in the most recent poll after the loss to Arkansas, though only two programs — Montana State and Incarnate Word — separate them from SDSU.

* Live video coverage will be available through ESPN3.com.

About the Jackrabbits:

* Having gained just 370 yards through its first two games, the SDSU offense looked to find its rhythm against Butler, piling up 463 total yards — 279 passing, 184 rushing — in the lopsided win over the Bulldogs. That production will need to continue in order to match the Bears attack, which scored 34.3 points per game last season and is at 29.7 through three games this season.

* On paper, the Bears' offense presents the toughest test the stingy SDSU defense has faced early in the season. The Jackrabbits have surrendered an average of just 198 yards passing and 53 yards rushing through three games, but Missouri State is averaging more than 400 yards of offense per game, with more than 306 of those coming through the air.

* Over the past five seasons, SDSU is 14-6 on the road in MVFC play, though that record is 12-2 with 10 consecutive conference road wins outside of the Dakotas. The last time the Jackrabbits lost a regular-season conference road game to another FCS opponent not named North Dakota, North Dakota State or South Dakota was Oct. 20, 2018, at Northern Iowa.

About the Bears:

* Missouri State has a special player behind center in transfer senior quarterback Jason Shelley. The 5-foot-11 signal caller landed at Missouri State by way of Utah and the Utah State and was an instant hit for the Bears. Shelley earned an all-MVFC first-team nod in 2021 on top of being named the conference's player of the year and newcomer of the year and a Walter Payton Award finalist. Through three games this season, Shelly has completed 62.9% of his passes for 920 yards and accounted for nine touchdowns (seven passing, two rushing).

* Shelly's top target is 6-foot-3 junior Tyrone Scott (a Central Michigan transfer), who has hauled in 19 passes for 321 yards and four touchdowns, including eight for 96 yards and three scores against UT-Martin. Running back Jacardia Wright (a Kansas State transfer) is another top weapon for the Bears, as he leads the team in rushing with 195 yards while adding 79 yards receiving with two total touchdowns.

* Missouri State's weakness is on defense, where the Bears give up nearly 456 yards per game. However, third-down defense has been a strength, with the Bears limiting opponents to a conversion rate of 9-for-35 (25.7%).

* The Bears gave quite the scare to Arkansas last week, jumping on top of the Razorbacks by three scores early and even holding a 27-17 lead with 12 minutes to play in Fayetteville. Despite dropping that contest, Missouri State already boasts one win against ranked FCS opposition, having defeated then-No. 14 Tennessee-Martin (now No. 18), 35-30, on Sept. 8, in Springfield.

Next week: SDSU returns to Brookings for the first game of a two-week conference homestand, which begins against Western Illinois on Oct. 1, while Missouri State visits North Dakota for its first MVFC road game, also on Oct. 1.