BY JEREMY HOECK
As hard as it may be, Brady Hale and his South Dakota State teammates are moving on. They have no choice.
Life after a big-time win doesn’t allow you to celebrate for long.
Hale, a freshman punter from Yankton, came through with an impressive performance in his first collegiate game as the Jackrabbits upset Kansas 41-38 on Saturday afternoon in Lawrence.
On five punts, Hale averaged 41.6 yards – with a long of 56 – and put four within the 20-yard line; a key focal point for punters.
He spoke with the Press & Dakotan on Tuesday afternoon about the historic win for the Jacks (their first-ever over an FBS opponent) and about moving forward.
Is the celebration still going on?
Not really, honestly. We took it all in on Sunday, and yesterday (Monday) it was right back to business. It was definitely a great win for sure, but you have to get back down to business.
How important was it to move on right away?
You kind of almost have to, or it consumes your whole week. It was definitely something we were looking forward to it, but as coach (John) Stiegelmeier reminded us, that it’s just one week. You have to take it one week at a time. You can’t deny it was a big win, but it’s good to get back in the swing of things.
What was it like playing in your first game?
It was interesting. Obviously playing in the DakotaDome last year (for the Class 11AA championship), that kind of helped with all the people and the size of the stadium, but it’s Big 12 football, you can’t really compare it to everything. We had a walk-through the day before, which helped, but when it was time to play, I was focused and ready to go.
Did you ever envision playing, let alone beating, a Big 12 team when you were growing up?
That’s always been my goal, to play at this level. I did imagine it, yeah, but there’s no feeling like being out there.
What moments stood out from the game?
I was happy with my first punt. That was something I told myself, to make sure that first one is good. I almost had to make a tackle (on the last punt), but luckily the return guy was brought down. That would’ve been interesting.
What was life like as a punter, watching most of the game?
It’s a lot different. In high school, I don’t think I came off the field much. It’s a challenge to keep your leg warm and always be prepared, knowing where you’re punting, with the wind. You always have to be focused.
You can’t really afford to stare off in the crowd or anything like that, can you?
You can watch the game, but you have to be aware of the down and where the ball is. That’s what you do before the game, work out where the wind is, so you’re ready.
How important was that win for the program?
It was huge. I don’t know that we’ve beaten an FBS school, but it’s nice. Like I said, you can’t dwell on it too much.
How can you keep that momentum rolling?
I’d say, just keep preparing like we’re playing another team like Kansas. There was a feeling where we were all really focused. We just can’t get distracted by everything else.
Are you looking forward to playing at home for the first time? (The Jacks host Southern Utah on Saturday at 6 p.m.)
We’ve been looking at that field all fall camp, so it’ll be nice to get out there and run outside. We haven’t had a full on practice on the game field, but in special teams, we were out there a couple times because there wasn’t room for else. I’m anxious to get out there.