Jacks host FCS playoff gameBROOKINGS — South Dakota State’s football team hopes the best is yet to come and it has earned the chance to prove it.
By: Marcus Traxler, The Daily Republic
BROOKINGS — South Dakota State’s football team hopes the best is yet to come and it has earned the chance to prove it.
The Jackrabbits, off a 31-8 win over the rival Coyotes from South Dakota, earned an at-large bid Sunday into the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs and will host Eastern Illinois Sunday in Brookings.
The winner of the game meets No. 1 seed North Dakota State Dec. 1 in Fargo. SDSU lost 20-17 to the Bison eight days ago at the Fargodome.
Despite an 8-3 record and a second-place finish in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, the Jackrabbits were one of the final two teams in the field of 20, according to Charlie Cobb, the director of athletics at Appalachian State and the chairman of the selection committee.
“There was a lot of anticipation but it was fun to see the excitement and reward for all the hard work,” said SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier of his team’s reaction.
Eastern Illinois, which won the Ohio Valley Conference, finished the season 7-4 and plays an up-tempo style on offense. The Panthers are led by wide receiver Erik Lora, who has caught 124 passes this season for 1,531 yards and 12 touchdowns.
It’s the first time the Jackrabbits have hosted a playoff game since moving to Division I, which is decided by a bid process by participating schools.
“I’m really appreciative of our administration and stepping up to the plate and getting us a home game,” Stiegelmeier said.
The game is scheduled for 2 p.m. and will be shown on ESPN3, which is carried through numerous cable and internet providers. Playoff tickets go on sale to the general public at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Stiegelmeier is hoping that some Jackrabbit fans bring some relatives who are over for the holidays to cheer for the yellow and blue.
“I expect there to be some strangers in the stands,” Stiegelmeier said, jokingly adding that he would loan Jackrabbit clothing to those who come to the game.
The Jackrabbits qualified for the playoffs in 2009 but lost a first-round shootout to Montana in Missoula, 61-48, in which the Grizzlies scored the final 40 points of the game. The head coach says he thinks this year is different, describing the selection process as being similar to Christmas.
“To know you’re hosting adds to that feeling,” Stiegelmeier said. “You don’t want the season to end. This is an extension of the season and this is great.”