When Missouri opens its football season Saturday, the Tigers will be lined up against a yellow and blue team you probably know nothing about. South Dakota State finished 9-5 last season after losing in the second round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs and blah, blah, blah, let’s talk about what really matters …
1. South Dakota State already has Missouri beat in one department: mascot individuality. While the name “Tigers” is as common as the sight of an Ice Bucket Challenge on your Facebook news feed, “Jackrabbits” is downright unique. What’s SDSU’s jackrabbit named? Jack Rabbit. Duh.
2. Running back Zach Zenner slices up defenses like he’s using a scalpel — which he does use quite often as a pre-med student with an interest in surgery. The senior from Eagan, Minn., has rushed for 2,000-plus yards in each of the last two years. To begin the 2012 season, he punctured Kansas for a 99-yard touchdown run as part of a 183-yard day. So maybe Missouri residents might like him after all.
3. South Dakota State’s homecoming celebration is called Hobo Day. The school’s alumni website bills it as the “Biggest One Day Event in the Dakotas.” Barely edges out the Bison Burger Bash for that distinction. Hobo Day dates back to 1912, when students dressed as hobos for a football game. Hold on, it gets more awesome: The idea originated here in Columbia, where “the event failed because too many authentic hobos turned out and scared off the college students,” according to an SDSU alumni magazine. You cannot make this stuff up (except for the Bison Burger Bash part).
4. Cookies and cream ice cream was invented at the SDSU Dairy Sales Bar. Maybe. The school claims it came up with the flavor in 1979. It’s a disputed topic in the dairy community, though, with many taking claim to the creamy delight. Regardless, most people agree that SDSU’s version is pretty damn good. Food Network magazine said “the school's version, made cow-to-cone on campus, is legendary — and worth the fuss.” Mmmmoo.
5. The SDSU alumni list isn’t very star-studded. Its most notable name is probably one that comes from football: kicker Adam Vinatieri. The four-time Super Bowl champion won two Division II titles and left SDSU as the program’s all-time points leader. He also punted in college. He also did this (close your eyes, Rams fans).
6. South Dakota State’s alma mater, "Yellow & Blue," references Missouri:
“We come from the Sioux and Missouri,
The Cheyenne and the Jim,
From pine clad peaks of the Black Hills,
Brimful of vigor and vim …”
7. They do indeed come from Missouri. Six players on the Jackrabbits’ roster are from the Show-Me State, including Columbia natives Mark Pickerel and Freeman Simmons. Missouri, meanwhile, has no players from South Dakota on its roster. One from North Dakota, though.
8. Brookings, S.D., where SDSU is located, is also home to Daktronics Inc., the oft-used scoreboard manufacturer. The Kansas City Royals are thankful. In 2008, Daktronics installed a high-def LED video display at Kauffman Stadium. The board was king of its kind — the world's largest LED display at the time.
9. South Dakota State’s football stadium is the only natural-grass field in the 10-team Missouri Valley Football Conference. The school plans to raze and replace Coughlin-Alumni Stadium, which opened in 1962, with Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in 2016.
10. Back to the jackrabbit. A jackrabbit is actually a hare, not a rabbit. Jackhare doesn’t have the same ring to it, though. National Geographic has all the other pertinent details about the furry little creatures.
“Jackrabbits were named for their ears, which initially caused some people to refer to them as ‘jackass rabbits." Jackass referring to a donkey, not an imbecile.
In his book, Roughing It, Mark Twain made the term famous.
More from Nat Geo: “They are speedy animals capable of reaching 40 miles an hour, and their powerful hind legs can propel them on leaps of more than 10 feet. They use these leaps and a zigzag running style to evade their many predators.”
We’ll see how they do with some fearful Tigers on Saturday.