|« FCS Strength of Schedule||North Dakota State Remains at No. 1 in the 10/29/12 Gridiron Power Index (GPI) »|
SDSU Jackrabbits feature nation’s top rusher, big-time quarterback
Quarterback Austin Sumner may not have had to win a lot of games for South Dakota State’s football team this season, but Saturday he proved he still could.
Sumner, last year’s Missouri Valley Football Conference freshman of the year, threw for a career-high five touchdowns last weekend against previously-ranked Youngstown State. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound sophomore battled a hand injury early in the season, but completed 19-of-28 passes for a season-high 351 yards in the 41-28 win.
With the nation’s top rusher, sophomore Zach Zenner, South Dakota State hasn’t needed to throw for 300 yards every game, even though coach John Stiegelmeier always believed they had a chance to with Sumner.
“We came into the season feeling that, because Austin had had a good year last year,” Stiegelmeier said. “We had a very pretty special receiver in Dale Moss, and that made a difference, but, he’d had some injury problems, and some execution problems, and that takes away from confidence. But he sure got it back on Saturday, and, hopefully he can maintain that.”
Zenner, a 6-foot, 215-pound sophomore, rushed for 470 yards and three touchdowns last season. This year, Zenner had four of his nine touchdowns by the Jackrabbits’ fourth game of the year. Entering this weekend’s game at SIU, he has more rushing yards (1,447) than the Salukis (1,006).
South Dakota State (6-2, 4-1 MVFC), ranked No. 21/25 in the country, takes on SIU (5-4, 4-2 MVFC) on Saturday on Military Appreciation Day with a playoff berth on the line. A loss by SIU likely knocks the Salukis out of the playoff hunt.
“We thought we’d have a chance at being on top, but we’re not. We’re not getting too uptight about it,” said SIU coach Dale Lennon. “We know we’ve just gotta be ready for South Dakota State this weekend, but when you do look at the possible combinations, in theory, you could even have a five-way tie for first place, as far as who’s playing who here down the stretch. We’re not going to worry about that. We know that we still have some opportunities in front of us.”
With Moss, who caught six touchdown passes, Sumner threw for 2,382 yards, 16 scores and nine interceptions for a 5-6 squad last year.
This year, Sumner has been intercepted 13 times, with one getting returned for a touchdown by the Penguins on Saturday.
“Part of that is the youth factor. He gets hot and cold,” Lennon said. “There’s times where you can get pressure and force a couple throws that you can take advantage of. Actually, that’s kind of our game, so we’re going to work on that. But he’s also very confident. A lot of times he’s made some extremely impressive throws because of his confidence.”
SIU hasn’t allowed a 300-yard passer since Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 369 yards and five touchdowns in the season opener. The Salukis allowed a school-record seven passing touchdowns that night, but have only allowed five since.