Football Championship Subdivision playoff qualifier South Dakota State was well-represented on the all-Missouri Valley Football Conference team, with 10 Jackrabbit players named to the honor squad Monday.
Five Jackrabbits earned first-team honors, including repeat selections Zach Zenner and Bryan Witzmann.
A junior running back from Eagan, Minn., Zenner led the MVFC in rushing for the second consecutive season with 1,695 yards through the end of the regular season. Zenner crossed the 100-yard mark in 11 of 12 games and scored a league-best 22 touchdowns — 20 rushing and two receiving. He added 21 receptions for 251 yards out of the backfield.
Witzmann, a senior offensive tackle from Houlton, Wis., anchored aJackrabbit offensive line that helped clear the way for Zenner and allowed SDSU to rank in the upper half of nearly every offensive category in the MVFC. Witzmann has started every game during his four-year career with the Jackrabbits.
Completing the Jackrabbits’s first-team selections on offense was junior wide receiver Jason Schneider. The Andover, Minn., native finished the regular season as the MVFC’s leading receiver with 71 receptions (5.9 rpg) for 985 yards (82.1 ypg). He also scored 10 touchdowns, putting together a streak of six consecutive games with a touchdown to end the regular season.
Defensively, linebacker R.C. Kilgore and cornerback Winston Wrightwere named to the all-MVFC First Team. A senior from Cottage Grove, Minn., Kilgore ranked among the top tacklers in the FCS ranks with a league- and team-best 119 tackles during the regular season. Kilgore tallied double figures in tackles six times and also led the Jackrabbits with six takeaways during the regular season with four fumble recoveries and two interceptions.
Wright moved up to the first team after earning second-team honors in 2011. A senior from Lee’s Summit, Mo., Wright led the team with four interceptions during the regular season, while adding 47 tackles, three forced fumbles and two pass breakups.
Second-team honorees included Vince Benedetto at fullback and defensive tackle Chase Douglas.
Benedetto served primarily as a lead blocker for Zenner and the rest of the Jackrabbit running backs as SDSU averaged 161.4 yards per game on the ground through the regular season. A senior from Crystal Lake, Ill., Benedetto also caught six passes for 36 yards and a touchdown.
Douglas ranked among the league leaders in sacks with a team-best seven during the regular season. The senior from Brandon also tallied 33 total tackles, eight tackles for loss and forced two fumbles.
Rounding out the Jackrabbit honorees were honorable mention selections Austin Sumner, Doug Peete and Je Ryan Butler.
A junior quarterback, Sumner led the league in passing yards with 2,628 during the regular season. The Brandon native completed 59.5 percent (210-of-353) of his passes with 18 touchdowns and only seven interceptions as he set Jackrabbit career records for completions, attempts and passing yardage during the 2013 campaign.
Peete put together another strong season at the defensive end position, ranking fourth on the team with 61 tackles. A senior from Olathe,Kan., Peete added 6.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and an interception.
Butler, a sophomore from Tempe, Ariz., was honored as a return specialist after taking over the punt return duties midway through the season. He averaged 11.5 yards per return, highlighted by an 80-yard punt return for touchdown in a double-overtime win against Northern Iowa.
Selections to the all-Missouri Valley Football Conference Team arevoted on by league coaches, sports information directors and a media panel.Special awards were presented to North Dakota State quarterback Brock Jensen as MVFC Offensive Player of the Year, South Dakota linebacker Tyler Starr as MVFC Defensive Player of the Year and Youngstown State running back Martin Ruiz as MVFC Freshman of the Year and Newcomer of the Year. North Dakota State headcoach Craig Bohl was selected as the Bruce Craddock Valley Football Coach of the Year for the third consecutive season.
South Dakota State, 9-4 overall, defeated Northern Arizona, 26-7, in the opening round of the FCS playoffs on Nov. 30. The Jackrabbits travel to third-seeded Eastern Washington for second-round action on Dec. 7.