SDSU corrals ‘Necks in final win


The defense saved its best for last, holding Western Illinois to seven points.

In the end, 5-6 is not where SDSU wanted to finish the 2011 football season.

However, a three-game winning streak to finish the year, capped by 27-7 victory over Western Illinois on Saturday, makes the finish feel much different than it did a year ago for the Jackrabbits when they finished with the exact same record.

The Jacks (5-6, 4-4 Valley) had a little help from every facet in the season finale and pulled away from the Leathernecks (2-8, 1-6 Valley) by building a 27-0 lead to assure their efforts to send off the 17 seniors with a victory. The defense that has struggled all season long with stopping teams held WIU to seven points and did not allow the conference’s leading receiver, Terriun Crump, to get into a rhythm in the first half.

“There are so many positives from the last three games and to win on the road is great,” head coach John Stiegelmeier said in his postgame radio interview.

After a blocked field goal on SDSU’s opening drive, the Jackrabbits took an early lead with a seven-yard touchdown pass from Austin Sumner to Zach Zenner to put the Jacks up 7-0. That lead extended when Sumner would scramble into the end zone from nine yards out before halftime, giving SDSU a 14-0 advantage before the break.

Sumner finished the game completing 19 of 39 passes for 208 yards. He finishes the season with the most passing yards ever by a freshman in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, totaling 2,382 yards for the year, 13 better than Illinois State’s Matt Brown in 2009.

The defense played arguably its best game of the season and that showed in the third quarter, with David Godley intercepting Leathernecks quarterback Josh Hudson to flip the field on a 30 yard return to the WIU 15, setting up a 27-yard field goal by Justin Syrovatka and SDSU led 17-0 in the third quarter.

On the very next drive, SDSU would take the ball away again when Winston Wright stripped the ball from Crump on a pass completion. Linebacker R.C. Kilgore made the savvy move to keep the ball in play, knocking it back to Wright, who scampered 68 yards to put the Jackrabbits ahead 24-0 and put the game on ice. Syrovatka added a late field goal and WIU finally got on the scoreboard in the final minute when Crump caught a three-yard touchdown pass to decide the final margin, moving the Jackrabbits to 14-1 in season finales under Stiegelmeier.

Both Dale Moss and Aaron Rollin added to their receiving total for the season with Moss catching seven balls for 88 yards and Rollin finishing with five catches for 69 yards. Each player finished in the top ten for single-season receiving yardage and became the first duo in SDSU history to reach 900 yards in a year.

WIU’s inability to stay in the game was partially self-inflicted. WIU had five personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, extending SDSU drives and prematurely ending Leatherneck advances.

For once this season, the Jackrabbits were letting someone else shoot themselves in the foot.

“We make some key mistakes and that sets us back. It’s happened in several games and it’s frustrating.  That certainly is the summary of today,” WIU head coach Mark Hendrickson said.

“Surely we can play better than we did this year at times but I think there’s bright future for these guys. I know there is,” Stiegelmeier said.