BY JEREMY HOECK
If you ask Joe Glenn, records have to be thrown out the window for Saturday’s rivalry game in Brookings.
The football coach at the University of South Dakota is familiar enough with these games — as both a former player and now a third-year head coach for the Coyotes — to know what can happen.
“It makes no difference,” Glenn said during Tuesday’s Missouri Valley teleconference, previewing Saturday’s showdown with South Dakota State. “I’ve seen it both ways. I’ve seen their team not having such a great year and the Coyotes having a great year, and the Jacks win.
“Anything can happen in a State-U game.”
What needs to happen for the Coyotes (2-9, 0-7), at least, is something positive. They’ve lost their last 11 league games dating back to last season, and are in danger of going winless in conference play for the second time in three years.
“In perfect order, number one, we’re looking for a win,” Glenn said. “That’s the most important thing right now for us. We need a win.
“To close our season down with a victory is exactly what we need to springboard us on and give us a little hope.”
Doing so won’t be easy against the No. 16-ranked Jackrabbits (7-4, 4-3), who themselves need a win, but for different reasons — they’re still in the FCS playoff hunt.
That point was again driven home by SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier, who repeated Tuesday that his team is looking forward to the game but has long-term goals.
As to the game with the Coyotes, though, Stiegelmeier said USD’s record probably doesn’t do the team justice.
“They’ve been in position to win games, and coach Glenn’s answered the question, they haven’t gotten it done,” Stiegelmeier said. “It’s not because they’re not a good football team not because they’re not well-coached, it’s the cards they’ve been dealt.”
One of the cards USD will be dealt Saturday will be cold conditions, as the afternoon temperature is forecasted in the mid-30s.
Is the weather a concern?
No, said Glenn, whose team will practice outside all week.
“We’re all guys from Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa or Minnesota, we don’t have many guys that are silver spooners,” he said.
The only concern — a mystery, really — is the field conditions at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium, which is always an issue this time of the year.
“It’s hard to tell what kind of footing we’ll have,” said Glenn, who referenced uncertainty about what cleats his players will wear. “It was a mess for last Saturday’s game, we watched that over and over, and thought the Rabbits did a great job maneuvering around on that.”
If there would be an advantage SDSU has, it would be that, Stiegelmeier said: The Jacks played — and won — in those conditions.
“There’s no doubt, the fact that we won on this very field, I think psychologically gets rid of that ‘what if’ type of deal,” he said.
Snow or not, the Coyotes are faced with another psychological battle Saturday: They haven’t won a game played outdoors since 2010.
“I don’t attribute it to anything,” Glenn said. “We don’t win outdoors because we’re not playing good enough, that’s why.”
BY JEREMY HOECK
For a third consecutive season, South Dakota State and the University of South Dakota will meet on the football field with one team clinging to playoff hopes.
And the other simply looking to develop some momentum.
The roles are the same for Saturday’s Missouri Valley Conference showdown in Brookings: The Jackrabbits (7-4, 4-3) need a win to keep their post-season dreams alive, while the Coyotes (2-9, 0-7) are looking for anything positive to take into the off-season.
“People look at the records, but hopefully we’re not. It doesn’t mean anything,” SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said Monday. “Coach (Joe) Glenn will have his guys ready to play, because this is their last opportunity.
“I’m sure they’ll want to make a statement.”
The No. 16-ranked Jacks, though, are again looking beyond the game with the Coyotes. If they are to reach the FCS playoffs for a third straight season, they’ll need to win and possibly get some outside help.”
Although the Jacks sit in a 4-way tie for third place in the Missouri Valley standings, they’re among six league teams ranked in the top-25 this week. It’s a conference the Coyotes have struggled to pick up wins in — they’ve lost their last 11 league games, dating back to last season.
“It’s a tough league, and this is the toughest it’s ever been,” Stiegelmeier said. “I can’t believe both the quality of the teams and the individuals you face. There are some phenomenal athletes.”
In the case of USD, there haven’t been as many close calls as there were last season, when the Coyotes won three league games. This season, however, they’ve lost by an average of 21 points in league games.
“It’s a solid football team; a team that plays very, very hard,” Stiegelmeier said. “It’s a team that I think is waiting for something positive to happen, to build on that. And they haven’t had many of them.”
“Like anybody that’s struggled, you maybe doubt yourself a little bit.”
In the case of South Dakota State, it has rebounded from two straight losses to win its last two, including a 59-24 rout of Western Illinois last Saturday.
One of the biggest surprises for the Jackrabbits this season has been the emergence of redshirt freshman wide receiver Jake Wieneke.
Though, it wasn’t exactly a surprise to his position coach, Stiegelmeier said.
“Our receivers coach, Josh Davis, had been saying last year that Jake was special,” Stiegelmeier said. “It took a while for the rest of us to see that. But he’s a very easy-going guy, he doesn’t get rattled.”
Wieneke, who stands 6-foot-4, has provided matchup problems to opposing cornerbacks. Wieneke, a native of Maple Grove, Minnesota, has caught 60 passes for 1,141 yards and 14 touchdowns — he is the first freshman in league history to reach 1,000 receiving yards in a season.
“He’s gotten better every week, which is really cool,” Stiegelmeier said.
In the blowout win last Saturday, Wieneke had 10 grabs for 159 yards and three touchdowns. He has even surpassed senior standout Jason Schneider (49 rec., 679 yds, 5 TD) as the top target for quarterback Austin Sumner, who is back from a foot injury.
“When you have Schneider on the other side of the ball, they compliment each other so well,” Stiegelmeier said.
After last Saturday’s home loss to Illinois State, USD head coach Glenn was asked about moving to face the rival Jackrabbits — a team that has beaten the Coyotes each of the last two years, since USD joined the Missouri Valley.
“It’s the biggest game in the state, and I don’t care what they say,” Glenn said, before adding with a smile, “They can say they like to play North Dakota State, but I’m calling BS on that.
“This game is between State and the U, and if you don’t believe me, if they lose, you watch and see.”
I’ve spent a good portion of the last three days working on previews for the S.D. State football finals. This means I either know what I’m talking about at this point, or I’m more confused than ever.
I am 71-11 overall in SD picks, so let’s see if I can finish with a bang:
9A: Wolsey-Wessington over Howard. The Tigers may have the best back in state history (in terms of career yards), Luke Loudenburg, but Wolsey-Wessington has 2 2,000-yard backs and a decent passing game.
9AA: Gregory over Woonsocket-Wessington Springs-Sanborn Central. The Gorillas may not have a strong history in the Dome, 1-8 to be precise, but those Gorillas aren’t these Gorillas.
11A: Madison over Dell Rapids. This was a good game to start the season, 36-33 in Madison’s favor. While the Quarriers are better than they were, I think the Bulldogs win in what could be a classic.
9B: Hamlin over Faulkton Area. As much as I’d like to see Faulkton come in and pull off the upset, Hamlin’s got a squad that learned from losing on this stage a year ago.
11B: Parkston over St. Thomas More. The Trojans have a distinct advantage on the line and a fire from having lost here a year ago. As much as I want Mount Marty Hall of Famer Wayne Sullivan and the Cavaliers to finally get a win in the Dome, I don’t think it’s this year.
11AA: Yankton over Brookings. Both teams have tremendous offensive weapons, but I think Yankton’s defense is the deciding factor. An interesting note: Yankton went 6-0 in the ESD but didn’t play Huron and Brookings. The Bucks will have played them both in the playoffs after Friday night.
11AAA: Lincoln over Roosevelt. I think this is another good matchup between the programs, but I think Aaron Beavers and the Patriots hang on to the title.
Since I probably won’t have time to do a separate post on these, here are my Nebraska picks for the semifinals in classes that involve area teams.
C2: Oakland-Craig over Cedar Catholic (I’d love to cover the Trojans in Lincoln again, but Oakland-Craig may have the upper hand. Dress warm.); Battle Creek over Aquinas Catholic
D1: Hemingford over Elm Creek, GACC over BDS
D2: Falls City Sacred Heart over Exeter-Milligan, Anselmo-Merna over Maxwell.
BY JEREMY HOECK
Jaycee Bradley just so happened to be at a basketball practice in Ames, Iowa, on the day the University of South Dakota women’s basketball team played in the NCAA Tournament in March.
Bradley, a 5-foot-9 guard from Norfolk (Nebraska), had already been considering USD at that point, but seeing the Coyotes face Stanford on the big stage helped with her eventual college decision.
“They competed pretty well,” Bradley said Wednesday evening, hours after she signed to play basketball for the Coyotes.
“That was cool to see them play a team like Stanford and in person.”
Bradley, who averaged 18.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game for Norfolk last season as a junior, played summer AAU basketball with the All Iowa Attack, out of Ames.
That meant a four-hour drive one way just for practice, and that was once or twice a week during the summer.
“We put on a lot of miles, that’s for sure,” she said.
Bradley also did quite a bit of driving to and from Vermillion over the last few months.
Between a couple of unofficial visits, an official visit in May (when she committed) and a few other visits to campus to spend time with the Coyote players, Vermillion is becoming quite familiar, she joked.
“It’s been a lot of fun, the girls are very welcoming,” Bradley said.
Having to wait nearly six months before she could sign her National Letter of Intent, Bradley found it hard to contain her excitement.
“I was really excited to sign because I’ve known for a long time,” she said. “I’ve been on campus a lot the last few months.”
Bradley was one of three high school seniors to sign Wednesday to play basketball for the Coyotes, joining Megan Bonar (Kansas) and Madeline Homoly (Kansas). The fourth commit, Allison Arens of Crofton, Nebraska, will likely sign after this weekend — she is competing at the Nebraska State Volleyball Tournament in Lincoln.
For Bradley, her decision to commit and eventually sign had a lot to do with the USD coaching staff, led by head coach Amy Williams.
“The coaching staff and the girls are so personable,” Bradley said. “Plus it’s a good fit for me academically.”
And the idea of joining a program coming off that NCAA Tournament appearance?
“I think they’re going to be there a few more times in the future,” Bradley said.
BY JEREMY HOECK
Tyler Hagedorn has been waiting a month to make it official. And in that time, his commitment has not wavered.
It’s only gotten stronger.
After committing in mid-October, Hagedorn, a 6-foot-9 forward at Norfolk (Nebraska) High School, signed Wednesday to play basketball at the University of South Dakota.
“It was the right fit. I think that’s the best way to describe it,” he said after his.
Hagedorn, who is coached in Norfolk by former Coyote standout Ben Ries, averaged 16.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 blocks per game last season for the Panthers. He earned second team Class A honors after leading Norfolk to the state semifinals.
Curiously, it was USD that entered the recruiting process latest on Hagedorn, he said.
“I actually had to call (Smith) at one point, to make sure he was still interested in me,” Hagedorn said. “Then going on my visit and talking with the guys, it was a place that fits what I wanted.”
Ultimately, Hagedorn chose USD over another Summit League school: Denver.
“Denver has a pretty stable ground with a solid coaching staff, but USD has something new,” he said. “New players, new coaches, new upgrades.
“That was something I wanted to be part of.”
Hagedorn will join a program in 2015-16 that will be in year two under head coach Craig Smith, who came to USD after two seasons at Nebraska. USD will also open its new 6,000-seat basketball arena in 2016-17, Hagedorn’s second.
“Getting a new arena for basketball, it’s state of the art,” Hagedorn said. “Having a place like that I can work out in and play in, it’s such a big bonus.”
But it was more so the connection he developed with Smith that played a key role in his commitment, Hagedorn said.
“I liked him from the beginning,” Hagedorn said. “When I talk to him, he’s a very energetic guy, and I have my ears open all the time with him.
The number one thing he told me was, ‘I can develop you,’” Hagedorn added. “That’s what I’m putting my faith in.”
The Coyotes, who open their 2014-15 season Friday at Utah Valley, see in Hagedorn a versatile threat, according to Smith.
“Tyler is a skilled player with excellent size and has a great feel for the game,” he said Wednesday. “He is an excellent passer, a good rebounder and can score inside and out. He has the ability to play multiple positions.”