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SDSU still working to become GSU-like program
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    South Dakota State coach John Steiglemeier’s team is coming off an impressive win, a 45-0 shellacking of Stephen F. Austin. But the Jackrabbit coach said a win by that margin was not on his radar screen.
    But then again a 63-7 loss to Georgia Southern at Paulson Stadium three years ago wasn’t something he saw coming, either.
    Despite the humbling loss Steiglemeier took every positive that could be had from that game and has used it to make his team and program much better.
    “That was not a positive experience,” said Steiglemeier. “After that game we pointed out to our players that Georgia Southern is a team like we all want to be… a team with great tradition, a team that competes for a national championship, team with real high, high expectations for everyone in their program.”
    The two teams will meet for the third time Saturday at 2 p.m. at Paulson Stadium. The Jackrabbits (2-3) have won their last two while the Eagles (3-1, 1-1) are coming off a 50-21 win over Western Carolina.
    Georgia Southern won that second meeting two years ago, 55-42, in a game that was not decided until late against a South Dakota State team that has shown rapid improvement since leaving the Division II ranks four years ago.
    In their first meeting the Rabbits had only 38 scholarship players and a handful of seniors. This year for the first time they are the full complement of 63 scholarships and have 18 seniors.
    Currently a member of the Great West Conference the Jackrabbits will be a member of the Gateway Conference in 2008 and will be eligible for the playoffs. 
    Steiglemeier starts six seniors and four juniors on offense while five seniors and three juniors start on defense.
    “You plan to win, that’s what you work on,” said Steiglemeier of the wins over Texas State and S.F. Austin by a combined 85-3 score. “We played really well the week before (Texas State) and played pretty well against S.F. Austin.”
    The Jackrabbits three losses have all been to ranked teams. They opened with road losses to No. 23 Western Illinois in four overtimes, a six-point loss at No. 10 Youngstown State and a 31-17 loss to No. 2 Northern Iowa.
    “We played some pretty good football those first three games,” said Steiglemeier, “but we played some really good football teams, too.
    “As to winning the last two I think it’s a matter of the guys staying the course,” said Steiglemeier. “They believe in themselves, they believe in the program. We didn’t change anything. We’ve been lucky to have two pretty easy wins which doesn’t happen too often around here.”
    The Jackrabbits have an excellent quarterback in junior Ryan Berry and tailback Cory Koenig is one of the better running backs in the Great West Conference. Berry has thrown for 976 yards with JaRon Harris having 25 catches for 372 yards. Koenig has gained 312 yards.
    Defensively Steiglemeier said he is not planning on doing anything different to slow down Jayson Foster and the nation’s top running game. Foster is leading the nation in rushing at 197.5 yards per game and the Eagles are clicking for 390.2 on the ground.
    “We’re not going to have two guys tackling the dive and the quarterback up the field,” said Steiglemeier who watched his team keep S.F. Austin outside the red zone last week. “We’re going to play sound defense and try and limit the big play.
    “Ideally we can prevent the big play by doing things right by making them march the field,” said Steiglemeier. “We’re going to take great angles and play fundamental football.”
    Steiglemeier said he will also be counting on a productive day from his special teams. Field goal kicker Parker Douglas has made all 10 of his attempts this season including a 57-yarder last week.
    In the loss at Youngstown the Jackrabbit coach said his team took the field in awe of the Penguins and found themselves down 17-0 before settling down.
    “These kids believe in themselves because they have competed at this level,” said Steiglemeier. “We can walk on that field and not be in awe of the athletic ability and the tradition of Georgia Southern.”