South Dakota Showdown football primer: Jackrabbits, Coyotes clash in Brookings for first time since 2018
USD has won the past two matchups against its in-state rival, but SDSU has held a decisive advantage in the series dating back to 1990 and holds the all-time series edge at 55-52-7.
BROOKINGS — After back-to-back meetings at the DakotaDome, the South Dakota Showdown football rivalry returns to Brookings for the first time since 2018, as the University of South Dakota faces off with South Dakota State. Here’s what to know ahead of the contest:
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Dykhouse Stadium, Brookings.
Records: SDSU 4-1 overall, 2-0 Missouri Valley; South Dakota 1-3, 0-1 Missouri Valley.
Coaches: SDSU: John Stiegelmeier, 26th season, 189-112; USD: Bob Nielson, 30th season (seventh at USD), 216-117-1 (30-37 at USD).
Last meeting: Last season's tilt, played on Nov. 13, 2021, ended on nothing less than one of the most iconic plays in the rivalry's long history, as a 57-yard Hail Mary from Carson Camp to Jeremiah Webb on the final play vaulted USD over SDSU by a 23-20 final score.
Series history: Saturday marks the 116th clash between the Jackrabbits and Coyotes since the series began in 1889. Overall, the Jackrabbits hold a 55-52-7 advantage in the series. In the Division I era (since 2012), the rivalry has been contested nine times, with SDSU winning the first seven and USD winning the past two, both by a field goal margin in Vermillion.
Last week: SDSU opened its home MVFC slate with a 34-10 win over Western Illinois, while USD was idle. The week prior, on Sept. 24, the Coyotes hosted North Dakota State and fell, 34-17.
- Little changed at the top of this week's Stats Perform FCS poll. SDSU received three first-place votes and held firm at No. 2 between top-ranked North Dakota State with 45 first-place votes and No. 3 Montana with six first-place votes.
- Benefiting from the most difficult schedule in the country (per the Massey ratings), USD clung to a pair of votes in the most recent poll, the fewest among any team in the receiving votes section.
- Televised coverage will be available through Midco Sports or ESPN+.
Comparing the Jackrabbits and Coyotes:
- Though a slow start has SDSU's scoring offense ranked sixth in the 11-team MVFC, the Jackrabbits' 26.8 points per game average is shy of being second (to NDSU's 37.6) by just 2.1 points, as six Valley teams are clustered between 23.5 (Youngstown State) and 28.8 (Southern Illinois) points per game. However, the Coyotes are not included in that grouping. USD's 15.5 points per game rank a distant ninth in the conference (3.8 points behind Illinois State at eighth) and just 1.1 points ahead of the 14.4 of winless Western Illinois in 10th.
- On the other side of the ball, both teams rank in the top half of the MVFC. SDSU is allowing 14.0 points per game, the fewest in the conference, as USD's 28.3 is fifth, albeit a considerable ways behind the fourth-best mark of 22.0 owned by YSU. When looking at yards allowed, SDSU's 246 per outing and 4.4 yards per play are both still best in the MVFC, while USD's 447.3 total yards allowed drops them to ninth and 6.3 yards per play is seventh.
- Further broken down, the largest discrepancy between the two teams, at large this season has been the ability (or inability) to stop the run. Through the air, the Jackrabbits rank just one spot ahead (in the conference) of the Coyotes both in average yards gained (196.6 to 183.3) and average yards surrendered (195.8 to 207.8), which is also the case in average yards gained on the ground (156.6 to 143.0). But defending the rushing attack, SDSU's 50.2 yards allowed per game is not only the MVFC's top mark by nearly 40 yards per game (SIU is second at 88.4), but it also ranks third in the entire FCS. USD is on the other end of the spectrum, allowing an MVFC-worst 239.5 rushing yards per game.
Keys for the Jackrabbits:
- Protect the ball. Turnovers have cost SDSU in each of the past two losses to the Coyotes. Four fumbles in 2019 played a large part in the Jackrabbits having to play from behind most of the afternoon and two interceptions last season allowed USD to hang around and be in a position to win the game late. In its last 12 quarters of play this season, SDSU has turned the ball over just once while taking it away seven times.
- Defend home field. Playing at home has given the Jackrabbits a considerable boost in South Dakota Showdown fixtures since 2012. During the Division I era, SDSU is undefeated across four games in Brookings, and only the 2016 meeting (28-21) was decided by fewer than 22 points. Dating back to 1990, the Jackrabbits have won 11 of 12 games in the rivalry contested in Brookings, and eight of the 11 were decided by multiple scores.
Keys for the Coyotes:
- Attack through the air. Even including USD's last loss in the series, the Coyotes have had plenty of recent success moving the ball through the air against the Jackrabbits. Between the 2018 and 2019 contests, Austin Simmons passed for a combined 547 yards before Carson Camp threw for 288 last season. No matter who was throwing, they had two passing touchdowns to one interception in all three games.
- Extend drives. Staying on the field will be a priority, though USD has had its struggles so far this season. In 2021, the Coyotes converted at a near-40% rate on both third and fourth down, but through four games this season, USD is just 16-of-56 (28.6%) on third down and 0-for-6 on fourth down. In the past two games against SDSU, the Coyotes have converted 11 of 28 third down (39.3%) and 3 of 4 fourth down attempts.
Next week: SDSU travels up Interstate 29 for another rivalry contest against North Dakota State in Fargo on Oct. 15, while USD will be on the road once again for a meeting with Illinois State.