FACTS & STATS: Site: Bobcat Stadium (17,777) – Bozeman, Montana. Surface:
FieldTurf. Television: ESPN3.com. Announcers: Trey Bender, Jay Taylor. Home
Record: South Dakota State 5-1; Montana State 6-1. Away Record: South Dakota
State 3-3; Montana State 2-3. Conference: South Dakota State – Missouri Valley;
Montana State – Big Sky. Nicknames: South Dakota State Jackrabbits; Montana
State Bobcats. Series Record: Montana State (10-2). Last Meeting: Oct. 23, 2004
(Montana State, 27-24 at Montana State). Series Streak: Montana State has won
the last four meetings. Head Coaches: South Dakota State – John Stiegelmeier
(18th season, 119-85 at South Dakota State and overall); Montana State – Rob
Ash (8th season, 65-31 at Montana State; 34th season, 241-130-5 overall). FCS
Playoff Records: South Dakota State 2-3; Montana State 6-6. Previous FCS
Playoff Appearances: South Dakota State 3 (2009, 2012-13); Montana State 8
(1984, 2002-03, 06, 10-13, National Champion in 1984). Current Playoff Streak:
South Dakota State has lost two of its last three FCS playoff games; Montana
State has lost four of its last six FCS playoff games.
GAME NOTES: To return to the playoffs for a third straight season, South
Dakota State – 5-4 at one point – had to rally with three Missouri Valley
Conference wins to end the regular season. Montana State held on as the Big
Sky’s third representative after getting pounded by rival Montana, 34-7, last
Still, it’s a highlight game for the first round. Explosive plays are expected.
The visiting Jackrabbits feature sensational running back Zach Zenner, who
ranks fourth in FCS history in career rushing yards (6,163) and career all-
purpose yards (7,751). But the entire offense has found a higher level with the
recent return of quarterback Austin Sumner from an early season injury, and few
wide receivers have been hotter than freshman Jake Wieneke, who has 1,318
receiving yards and 15 touchdown receptions this season, including 508 yards
and six TDs over the last three games.
After missing the playoffs last season, Montana State is back in the field for
the fourth time in five seasons and has a senior-led squad. But the key for the
Bobcats is having redshirt sophomore Dakota Prukop (17 passing TDs, 13 rushing)
back from an ankle injury that has sidelined him in two straight games. His
ability to roll out and take off with the ball sets up the pass. Jake Bleskin
is ready to go if Prukop remains slowed by the injury.
SDSU’s defense features linebacker T.J. Lally. The Bobcats have a standout of
their own in Alex Singleton, but their defense has been quite inconsistent.
The winner of this potential high-scoring matchup will have a second-round
clash at No. 2 seed North Dakota State, the three-time reigning FCS champion,
on Dec. 6.
PREDICTION: Zenner off right tackle, Zenner off left tackle … yes, a
rainy/snowy forecast calls for a lot of Zenner. South Dakota State, 28-24.