Home advantage for SDSU in the FCS playoffs

Nov. 15 – BROOKINGS – Whether it’s the November or December chills in South Dakota or a crowded Dykhouse Stadium, the state of South Dakota has an edge when it comes to playing at Brookings.

And with the Jacks almost certainly sitting as a top-2 seed for the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, the only game SDSU would have to play outside of Dykhouse Stadium in the postseason would be the FCS Championship in Texas if the Jacks won the table would lead.

The first taste of winter football in South Dakota came last week at SDSU’s final home game of the season against Illinois State when it was 20 degrees with thunderstorms and 10-15 mph winds. But coach John Stiegelmeier said playing in the cold is an advantage if his team is willing to accept it.

“Most people would say if you’re a cold-weather team and a warm-weather team comes along, that’s an advantage, Jackrabbits, but you have to embrace it,” Stiegelmeier said after the win over the Redbirds. “It means practicing outside in the cold. It means accepting your situation and not complaining about it.”

SDSU is the only Division I team in the Dakotas not to play under one roof and the northernmost team in the Missouri Valley Football Conference with an outdoor stadium. With potential playoff teams coming from South Carolina, Alabama, or Texas, SDSU is more used to cold weather than some potential visitors.

At this point in the season, according to Stiegelmeier, his team accepted the challenge of training under the conditions.

“(If) we go outside for an hour and 40 minutes, we want to get an hour and 40 minutes of work. Well, when you think about the weather, you don’t get any better,” Stiegelmeier said of practicing in the cold. “Our boys were out on Friday when it was bitterly cold and windy. We were outside (last week) when it rained on us and I never heard a negative comment.”

There have been a handful of winter weather games for SDSU in recent years. On December 1, 2018, the Jacks defeated Duquesne 51-6 at home on a field that was covered in snow by the end of the game and had winds of 15-20mph in 30 degree weather.

When New Hampshire came after Brookings a year earlier, SDSU won 56-14 with a temperature in the low to mid 20s and 15 mph winds. That UNH game on December 9, 2017 was also the last in the calendar year that the Jacks hosted a game. But if SDSU makes it to the semifinals this season, Dykhouse Stadium would be the venue for a game on either December 16 or 17.

However, it’s more than just the weather that contributes to a home field advantage for the SDSU. Dykhouse Stadium is MVFC’s second largest stadium in terms of capacity, with a seating capacity of 19,340. And this year, those seats are largely filled.

The Jacks set a new single-season average attendance record of 15,561 this season and surpassed 19,000 fans twice this year.

Home momentum has led SDSU to an unbeaten record at Dykhouse Stadium this season and a nine-game win streak that stretches back to last year. Additionally, SDSU has won four straight home playoff games and boasts a 9-1 home record during the FCS playoffs.

Dykhouse Stadium is also one of the more remote stadiums in the country. Teams traveling to SDSU often fly into Sioux Falls and still have to make the nearly hour-long drive to Brookings. The closest Big Sky counterpart is Northern Colorado, which is over 600 miles away, while Towson, the closest team in the Colonial Athletic Conference, is over 1,000 miles away. As Stiegelmeier put it, teams coming to a full Dykhouse Stadium is certainly “an advantage for rabbits”.

“It’s about the fans, the roaring crowd here,” linebacker Jason Freeman said after the Illinois state game. “(Even) everyone on the touchline pumps us up because we have more people on the touchline when we have home games.”

Saturday November 5th

State of South Dakota 31, State of Illinois 7

North Dakota 28, South Dakota 19

State of North Dakota 21, Southern Illinois 18

State of Indiana 21, Western Illinois 0

State of Missouri 25, State of Youngstown 22

Teams are listed with MVFC record followed by overall record:

*1. State of South Dakota, 8-0, 10-1

2. North Dakota State, 6-1, 8-2

3. North Dakota, 5-2, 7-3

T-4. Youngstown State, 4-3, 6-4

T-4. Southern Illinois, 4-3, 5-5

T-4. North Iowa, 4-3, 5-5

7. Illinois State, 3-4, 5-5

T-8 State of Missouri, 2-5, 4-6

T-8 South Dakota, 2-5, 3-7

10. Indiana State, 1-6, 2-8

11. Western Illinois, 0-7, 0-10

*denotes conference master

A top performance from the conference for the week:

Youngstown State running back Jaleel McLaughlin clinched his fourth 200-yard game of the season, rushing for 227 yards on 28 carries with a touchdown in a 25-22 loss to Missouri State. He set the NCAA’s all-time rushing record in all divisions.

A top play from last week’s games:

South Dakota State running back Isaiah Davis showed his strength on a touchdown scamper against Illinois State, breaking a tackle and driving into the end zone en route to a 31-7 win for the Jackrabbits.

Rankings are from the Stats Perform FCS Top 25.

Saturday 19 Nov

Western Illinois, Illinois, 11 a.m

Southern Illinois, Youngstown State, 11 a.m

State of Missouri in the state of Indiana, 12 p.m

North Iowa in South Dakota, 1 p.m

No. 16 North Dakota in State No. 4 North Dakota, 2:30 p.m

A Missouri Valley game we’re excited about this week:

No. 16 North Dakota in State No. 4 North Dakota, 2:30 p.m

North Dakota State is a suspension from the FCS playoffs, and a win would put the Bison in good position to earn a seed and a first-round bye.

On the other hand, North Dakota is in a good position, but a win over NDSU would cement the Fighting Hawks firmly in the playoffs and possibly a seeded position, while a loss will leave them in the bubble.

The matchup is the only ranked competition of the week in MVFC and one of five ranked matchups in FCS in the last week of the regular season.

* Christian Watson had a breakthrough for the Packers on Sunday. The NDSU rookie receiver registered four catches for 107 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-28 overtime win over the Cowboys.

* Former leatherneck Khalen Saunders was on a sack for the third straight week for the Chiefs in a 27-17 win over the Jaguars.

* Dallas Goedert again found the end zone for the Eagles on Monday night. The former jackrabbit caught three passes for 23 yards but coughed a fumble in Philadelphia’s first loss of the season.

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