SDSU, Wieneke overwhelm New Hampshire to reach FCS semis

BROOKINGS, SD - DECEMBER 9: Jake Wieneke #19 from South Dakota State University battles for the ball with Prince Smith, Jr. #46 from the University of New Hampshire during their FCS quarterfinal game Saturday afternoon at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings, SD. (Photo by Dave Eggen/Inertia)

(STATS) – To some it would be ridiculous to say South Dakota State wide receiver Jake Wieneke could be overshadowed by anybody.

Yet Wieneke came along when Eastern Washington’s Cooper Kupp was already on his way to setting all the big receiving records. Then with Kupp off to the NFL this year, Wieneke hasn’t quite had the senior season as teammate Dallas Goedert, the tight end whom most NFL Draft analysts say will be the first selected from the FCS next spring.

But with Goedert sidelined by an ankle injury early in Saturday’s quarterfinal-round playoff game against New Hampshire, Wieneke had a Kupp-like performance. Or was it just Wieneke being Wieneke as he caught two touchdowns, had the first rushing score of his career and totaled 188 yards from scrimmage in the No. 5-seeded Jackrabbits’ 56-14 blowout at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings.

Speaking of being overshadowed, SDSU (11-2) has reached the semifinals for the first time, yet the national focus has been dominated by James Madison and North Dakota State this season, even though the Jackrabbits’ seven-game winning streak includes a victory over NDSU. They’ll get their shot at No. 1 seed and defending national champ James Madison (13-0) next Saturday.

“Got our tails beat by a pretty good football team,” UNH coach Sean McDonnell said after the end of his team’s 14th straight playoff appearance.

JMU will be more competitive than New Hampshire, also a CAA Football power. In the schools’ first-ever meeting, the Wildcats (9-5) didn’t contain the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Wieneke even after Goedert was injured while being tackled on a 19-yard catch on the first play from scrimmage. Wieneke scored on a 48-yard reverse and a 32-yard reception, which put him over 5,000 receiving yards in his career and pushed the lead to 28-0 by halftime. His final catch of a nine-reception, 140-yard performance was a 10-yard TD pass from Taryn Christion in the fourth quarter.

Wieneke became the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s all-time leader in receptions (281), adding to the marks he already held in receiving yards (5,052) and touchdown receptions (58). He’s moved into a tie with former New Hampshire star David Ball for second place in FCS history in TD receptions an is third in receiving yards. Kupp holds those marks as well as in career receptions.

“I just try to do my job every play and be the best that I could be every single day,” Wieneke describes his role.

SDSU racked up 265 rushing yards against a surging New Hampshire defense that forced eight sacks and eight turnovers in two playoff wins. Isaac Wallace led the way with 79 yards and two touchdowns, while Christion and Mikey Daniels also scored on the ground. Christion’s 238 yards of total offense pushed the junior’s career total to a school-record 9,478 yards.

When UNH finally scored on Trevor Knight’s 75-yard pass to Kiernan Presley to make it 35-7 in the third quarter, SDSU’s Cade Johnson returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown.

The win was the 148th of SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier’s 21-year career. To get to 150 this season, well …