*** Road difficult for South Dakota State ***
Newark, DE (Sports Network) - Maybe it was the 1,000-and-some-odd-mile trip, or maybe it was opening-day jitters. Whatever the case, the result was a deflating 20-0 halftime deficit for South Dakota State on Saturday at Delaware.
There is no other way to slice it, South Dakota State was truly dominated in the first 30 minutes of play as Delaware's Andrew Pierce exploded for 94 rushing yards and a touchdown, and quarterback Pat Devlin completed 11-of-17 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown.
In contrast, South Dakota State quarterback Thomas O'Brien struggled, throwing two interceptions.
Delaware's defense walked into the tunnel at the half having delivered six consecutive quarters of shutout football, starting with a 31-0 victory over Division II West Chester in its first game of the season.
"If we could've played better earlier," said South Dakota State head coach John Stiegelmeier, "we would've played with more confidence, (and) we would've done better than we did."
For the Jackrabbits, hopefully the slow start does not prove to be a harbinger, as the road does not get any easier from here; with road being the key word.
Following next Saturday's home opener against Illinois State, South Dakota State will face a number of stout opponents away from the friendly confines of Coughlin-Alumni Stadium, beginning with No. 6/7 Nebraska of the FBS on Sept. 25.
Also on the road docket are matchups against The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25-ranked opponents Northern Iowa (No. 14), Southern Illinois (No. 4) and North Dakota State (No. 21). South Dakota State has won only one game at North Dakota State in the past 45 years.
Throw in Saturday's matchup against No. 16 Delaware, and the fact that South Dakota State does not have a bye, and the chances of duplicating last year's success, in which the team went 8-4 and reached the FCS playoffs for the first time since 1979, might be slim.
Stiegelmeier is aware of the possible pitfalls, but knows looking too far down the road is counterproductive.
"We've got a very tough road schedule, with all the top teams in (the Missouri Valley Football Conference) and a (FBS) game against Nebraska," he said. "Our philosophy is worry about one game, worry about one play. We won't go in the locker room today and go, 'Whoa, we've got a tough schedule.' We've never thought of it that way."
Stiegelmeier is right to keep things in perspective. After all, the season is young, and South Dakota State faced a monumental challenge is the opener, playing on the road against a ranked opponent from the dominant CAA.
A key element to the Jackrabbits' success this year will be Walter Payton Award (sponsored by Fathead.com) candidate Kyle Minett. The running back was named the team's offensive MVP the previous two seasons, and in 2009 earned All-MVFC second-team honors.
Minett finished fifth in the FCS in 2009 with 108.7 rushing yards per game, but tallied a career-low 32 rushing yards on 14 carries in the season opener versus Delaware.
In contrast, Delaware ran the ball at will in the victory. Pierce, a freshman, became the first Delaware Blue Hen in history to run for over 100 yards in his first two collegiate games. Aided by an impressive showing from the offensive line, Pierce finished with 165 rushing yards and a touchdown.
"I was surprised at how well they ran the ball," said Stiegelmeier. "Their (line) dominated the line of scrimmage when their offense had the ball."
In general, South Dakota State was dominated in its opener. Maybe a little home cooking will serve the Jackrabbits well, as Illinois State visits Coughlin-Alumni Stadium next Saturday.
The reality, though, is the South Dakota State Jackrabbits better feast at home in 2010, because on the road, they may be whipped into a stew.
09/12 08:24:19 ET