Missouri football to face 'most boring team in America' in South Dakota State

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 | 9:51 p.m. CDT; updated 7:57 p.m. CDT, Thursday, August 28, 2014

COLUMBIA — You won't catch John Stiegelmeier dancing Saturday — even if his South Dakota State Jackrabbits manage to upset heavily favored Missouri.

Stiegelmeier praised Tigers' coach Gary Pinkel on Wednesday for his on-field accomplishments at the highest level of college football. But he was less impressed with Pinkel's dance moves.

Remember Pinkel's victory shimmy after Missouri defeated Oklahoma State in last season's Cotton Bowl? Stiegelmeier does. And it's not his style.

"That's not South Dakota State football," Stiegelmeier said. "You won't see me doing any dancing."

The Jackrabbits' coach went on to call himself and his squad "the most boring team in America."

"We don't change," Stiegelmeier said. "We don't have a new slogan during the year. We don't switch up practice to try to entertain our players."

Stiegelmeier may consider himself humdrum, but he made a few interesting points Wednesday:

  • The importance of the payout

South Dakota State, a Football Championship Subdivision program, will get $350,000 to play Missouri on Saturday, according to South Dakota State associate athletics director Ed Posaski. The guaranteed payout constitutes 2 percent of the school's $15 million overall athletics budget, Posaski said.

Stiegelmeier said "guaranteed games" like this are "a must" for South Dakota State.

He said his program still doesn't make any money over the course of the season, but big-name, big-game payouts such as Saturday's affair help to fund other athletics programs for the Jackrabbits.

  • The visibility helps with recruiting

Stiegelmeier remembered playing Nebraska in 2010, a game that ended in a scary 17-3 win for the Cornhuskers. Performances like that are attractive to high school athletes who don't get looks from big-name schools, he said.

  • Filtering out the noise

Saturday's game will be the first time South Dakota State plays a Southeastern Conference school. Stiegelmeier has some concerns about that.

His chief worry?

"Because of the traditions and awe of the SEC, I don't want my players to go in there and think they're playing a team from a different planet."

He has reminded his players that the Tigers are "19- and 20-year-olds just like us."

Memorial Stadium is also one of the biggest venues the Jackrabbits will have played in. To prepare for the 71,168-capacity atmosphere, Stiegelmeier has used speakers to simulate noise during practices.

The noise is an issue, though less of a concern. The Jackrabbits are used to playing in "closed-in" stadiums (domes), Stiegelmeier said. Sure, they're smaller venues, but it's still "hard to hear."

  • Former Bruins buoyed to play on Faurot

It will be a homecoming of sorts for ex-Rock Bridge players Mark Pickerel and Freeman Simmons. And both are eager to see the field in Saturday's game.

Stiegelmeier said Simmons is coming into the game banged up. He'll wear a protective club over one of his arms. But Stiegelmeier said both Simmons and Pickerel could see action on special teams plays.

  • No spread, no problem

South Dakota State likes to run the ball, Stiegelmeier said. And why not?

Jackrabbits senior running back Zach Zenner has tallied back-to-back 2,000-yard seasons. He's only the second player in FCS history to twice reach the 2,000-yard mark, according to the South Dakota State athletics department.

Stiegelmeier said he may try to spread Zenner out a bit to get him more involved in the offense, but the coach added that "we're not a spread team."

Zenner is at home in the backfield, Stiegelmeier said, whether it's receiving a handoff or catching a pass. He won't line up in the slot a whole lot. "That's not his forte," Stiegelmeier said.

  • Small town values

Stiegelmeier traces his "boring" approach to coaching back to his small-town roots.

He grew up in Selby, S.D., a town of "700 people," he said. Sports were important, but farming superceded athletics. Stiegelmeier remembered days where the crops — wheat, oats and rye — had to be tended to before baseball games.

The former Selby High School Lions catcher would barely make it to some of his games. Stiegelmeier remembers getting to the field with only "20 minutes" to spare, throwing on his gear and taking up his spot behind home plate.

Farming was a team endeavor, not an individual achievement, he said, just like his approach to football — and his aversion to flashy celebrations.

"It's not the norm, it's not what you see on TV," Stiegelmeier said. "But I bet you my paycheck if Zach Zenner scores a touchdown Saturday, he just hands the ball to the official.

"And then he'll head butt and high five the fat guys who were blocking for him."

Supervising editor is Raymond Howze.

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