BROOKINGS -- It will be a Missouri Valley Football Conference clash today.
No. 7 South Dakota State University (8-4) hosts conference foe Northern Iowa (9-4) at 1 p.m. in the second round of the FCS playoffs at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium. It’s the second meeting between them this season, as the Jackrabbits won 38-7 on Nov. 16.
Despite falling to the University of South Dakota, 24-21, in the final week of the regular season, SDSU earned a first-round bye. The Panthers won a defensive battle against San Diego, 17-3, last week to keep their season alive.
Waiting in the quarterfinals will be the winner of No. 2 James Madison vs. Monmouth.
The first meeting came in the midst of the Jackrabbits’ 2-3 stretch to close the regular season. They broke open a 10-point game with a 21-point fourth quarter, holding the Panthers to 239 yards and their fewest points of the season.
Both teams have banked on strong defenses this season. SDSU (17 papg) and UNI (18.3) own the sixth and 10th-ranked scoring defenses, respectively.
Christian Rozeboom has eclipsed 100 tackles (101), while Seven Wilson and Logan Backhaus each have 73 tackles for SDSU. Backhaus has a team-high four interceptions, as well. They’ve led a defense which hasn’t given up 30 points in a single game, including against Minnesota.
They’ll be tasked with containing UNI’s offense, which has struggled this season. Despite scoring 26 points in a three-point, triple-overtime loss to Iowa State to open the season, it’s averaging just 23.2 points per game.
Trevor Allen (536 yards/5 TDs) is its only 500-yard rusher, while Will McElvain has completed 54.2 percent of his passes for 2,540 yards, 20 touchdowns and six picks. Isaiah Weston, who is questionable, has hauled in 41 catches for 1,040 yards and 10 scores.
SDSU’s passing game took a hit when J’Bore Gibbs was lost for the season. Keaton Heide replaced him, completing 71 percent of his passes for 905 yards and six touchdowns.
Cade Johnson’s production hasn’t dipped, though, catching 67 passes for 1,187 yards and eight touchdowns. Mikey Daniel will lead the ground game, amassing 492 yards and seven touchdowns this season.
SDSU’s offense has been held to 21 points or fewer in each of its last three losses, but have scored at least 35 points in its last two wins. However, UNI has allowed just 10 points combined the past two weeks since losing to the Jackrabbits.