BY JEREMY HOECK
How did John Stiegelmeier spend his free weekend from football?
“I got my Christmas lights up, so it was a great week,” joked the South Dakota State head coach, whose Jackrabbits had last week off. They will host Robert Morris (Pennsylvania) on Saturday.
South Dakota State is now in the rare position of playing a game the week before the Missouri Valley Football Conference schedule begins. Eight of the 10 league schools have a bye this week to prepare for what University of South Dakota head coach Joe Glenn calls the “rigor” of the league slate.
The only other Valley team to take the field Saturday is Southern Illinois, which hosts No. 10-ranked Liberty.
“If you look at everyone’s schedules, we’re all in agreement,” Glenn said. “We got this week off before the rigors.
“This is where most of us wanted it, and it worked out.”
Typically, Valley teams would prefer to have a week off between the non-conference and conference schedules. Last year, for example, both USD and SDSU had bye weeks before the league schedule.
Because of the physical nature of the league, it’s a good time to have some rest, according to Illinois State head coach Brock Spack.
“It’s kind of smart scheduling so you can get through your pre-season to see where you’re at,” Spack said. “Then you have a week to heal up if you need to heal up, and get some of those younger players better.”
The time off also allows coaches to get out on the road to recruit, Stiegelmeier said, as well as take stock of their current players.
“We surveyed our players, and their bodies were rested, which is what we wanted to hear,” he said.
Another benefit for USD, in particular, would be to evaluate what’s enabled the Coyotes (2-1) win consecutive games.
“And kind of ride the momentum we’ve built up the last couple weeks,” Glenn said.
While the Jackrabbits will have to turn around and face four-time defending national champion North Dakota State in the Oct. 3 conference opener, the Coyotes have some extra time to game-plan for Youngstown State in their opener.
“Our kids feel pretty positive about what’s going on,” Glenn said. “We’re going to try to keep lifting and stay strong; get some work done that way.”