Penguins Repeat Bison’s Blueprint To Beat High-Powered Jackrabbits

Matt Zimmer of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader newspaper saw it in Fargo last December and he saw in Youngstown, Ohio, Saturday — a team pounding the South Dakota State football team into submission with a punishing running game, a stifling defense and a dominating time of possession battle.

Zimmer asked Jackrabbits head coach John Stiegelmeier about the similarities of those two games– both SDSU losses — but Stiggy wouldn’t take the bait. Instead of acknowledging there is a blueprint to beating the high-powered SDSU offense, the veteran coach would only say he wants to see his team respond to a disappointing loss to Youngstown State.

Youngstown State beat the Jackrabbits 19-7 at Stambaugh Stadium, throwing an early dent in SDSU’s sky-high expectations for this Football Championship Subdivision season. The Jackrabbits and their fans have openly pointed to this season as the year they are ready to surpass North Dakota State as the kings of the Missouri Valley Football Conference and win their first national championship.

The Bison beat the Jackrabbits 36-10 in last year’s FCS playoff quarterfinals in the Fargodome, after SDSU won the regular-season matchup at the dome on a last-second TD.

Both the Bison and the Penguins proved one thing: The way to slow the terrific offensive trio of quarterback Taryn Christion, receiver Jake Wieneke and tight end Dallas Goedert is to keep them off the field. The similarities in how NDSU and YSU did that are remarkable.

Actually, Youngstown State out Bisoned the Bison.

The Penguins beat SDSU in the time of possession battle by keeping the ball for an astounding 45:14 compared to 14:46 for the Jackrabbits. That included this stunning second-half statistic: Youngstown outpossessed SDSU 26:24 to 3:36 in the second half. The Jackrabbits had the ball for 1:53 in the third quarter and 1:43 in the fourth quarter.

The Bison did the same thing to SDSU in the playoffs last season, winning the TOP battle 40:55 to 19:05.

Other similarities between Youngstown’s offensive stats and NDSU’s:

  • The Penguins rushed for 310 yards against SDSU. The Bison ran for 302.
  • The Penguins ran 86 plays to 33 for SDSU. The Bison ran 73 plays compared to 39 for the Jackrabbits. That included 62 rushing attempts for Youngstown and 52 for the Bison.
  • Youngstown had 30 first downs compared to 11 for SDSU. The Bison had 26 first downs to 10 for the Jackrabbits.

Just so many similarities.

The Jackrabbits still have seven conference games left and are still a top-level FCS team. But if their offense can’t get on the field — or their defense can’t get off the field, is that’s how you want to look at it — it makes things so much more difficult.

The question with SDSU was never their offense, it was their defense and whether it could stop the run against a physical team. It didn’t look good in the first test.

“Getting beat like that,” Stiegelmeier said, according to Zimmer’s story in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, “regardless of if it’s coming off a bye, on the road or at home, is very disappointing, and a bit concerning. Not concerned about how good we are but how we respond to how we got beat tonight. That will be the real test as far as where this team might be able to go.”