Top-seeded South Dakota State football hopes reward of rest propels them in FCS playoffs

Nov. 29—BROOKINGS — By the time South Dakota State football runs out of the locker room on Dec. 3, the Jackrabbits will mark their first game in 21 days.

The Jackrabbits haven't taken the field since Nov. 12, but for coach John Stiegelmeier, who was pleased that the schedule worked out for the Jacks to have two weeks off prior to the break, the time off was much needed.

"As a coach, you spend hours and hours to try to figure out what to call in this situation. And I spent hours trying to figure out what's best," Stiegelmeier said of how to handle the layoff when he met with the media over Zoom on Tuesday. "The situation, I believe, was the perfect situation for our program."

During the layoff SDSU practiced Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday both weeks and also used the break to get healthy. And Stiegelmeier said that he expects everyone to be ready to go against Delaware in the second round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, with the exception of linebacker Adam Bock, who hasn't played since Oct. 22 at North Dakota. Stiegelmeier said Bock is questionable for the contest against the Blue Hens but has had "positive results."

Bock isn't the only Jackrabbit to have gone down this year, though, with multiple players missing time throughout the season such as fellow All-American talents in running back Isaiah Davis and tight end Tucker Kraft. Even with the stars of the team being out at times this season, SDSU utilized its depth to charge to a 10-1 record.

That depth is something the Jacks can lean on should they need to, but a healthy group of starters is a welcome sight.

"You want your players to be able to play full speed and you want the right guys on the field. There have been times where we've been getting on the bus to go to a conference game and we can't find 64 healthy guys that are ready to play and that aren't being redshirted," Stiegelmeier said. "Now we've got guys sitting in the stands that would be running down in the kickoff team, if we could. So I'm excited about it."

In the absence of some of the starters, players like linebacker Jason Freeman — an all-Missouri Valley Football Conference honorable mention player this season — filled the gaps and stepped into larger roles.

And though the Jackrabbits will boast a nearly fully healthy roster for the postseason, the long layoff could bring a bit of rust with it, given the nearly three weeks since the last full game SDSU played. But it isn't something the MVFC coach of the year is concerned with.

"We had a really good, short practice (on Monday). I'd like to think we're a well-oiled machine, so there is no rust," Stiegelmeier said. "I'd much rather take fresh legs than be beat up."