SDSU’s ability to hang with No. 2 UNI ended with the Jacks turnover struggle.
SDSU had their chances against the second-ranked team in the nation. They gave those chances away.
Five turnovers by the Jacks, including four interceptions was more than enough for the second-ranked Panthers to take advantage of, pulling away from SDSU in the second half for a 31-14 win and ending the slim chances that the Jackrabbits would make the playoffs in 2011.
The prevailing word in SDSU’s loss Saturday: deflating
A pair of passing touchdowns from Austin Sumner to Aaron Rollin and Dale Moss, the last of which on a 15-play drive, had the Jackrabbits looking strong, up seven points with nine minutes remaining in the second quarter. In fact, it marked the beginning of the end.
On SDSU’s next offensive possession, Tyrel Kool fumbled the ball near midfield. After a short return, the Panthers capitalized on a 19-yard field in one play. UNI continued the one play theme the next time they got the ball, with quarterback Tirrell Rennie finding Terrell Sinkfield for a 80 yard score, with no Jackrabbit defender within 20 yards of Sinkfield at the time of his catch.
“It’s just a lack of discipline. We’re so caught up in doing more and we just need to focus on our job and our one guy. That’s just something we have to work on. We thought we were working on it but I guess we weren’t working on it hard enough,” defensive back Anthony Wise said.
Coupled with the Jacks turning the ball over on an underthrown fade route in the end zone at the end of the first half, any momentum the Jackrabbits had constructed was gone.
Niether team scored in the third quarter, but the Jacks’ comeback bid turned sour when the Panthers added another touchdown in the fourth quarter, putting the game out of reach and an excuse for the Jackrabbit faithful to start heading home.
“Tremendously disappointed in the result of that football game. Our standards and expectations are to play like we’re starting the game and we didn’t do that,” SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said.
UNI was able to hit the big play repeatedly during the game and that effort was led by Rennie — a player known for his ability to run with his legs — hitting on four passing touchdowns and throwing for 239 yards on 16 completions of 20 attempts.
The signal-caller opposite Rennie, Sumner threw for over 300 yards for the third consecutive game but SDSU ended up with more of the bad than the good with the four interceptions that came with it.
“They were just making plays. I didn’t play my best game tonight. If you don’t play good against a good team, nothing good is going to happen,” Sumner said.
Moss and Rollin combined for 157 yards receiving but the running game consisting of Kool and Zach Zenner failed to find any traction, being held under 100 yards as a pair for the fourth time this season — all losses for SDSU.
Undefeated and fifth-ranked NDSU comes in to Coughlin-Alumni Stadium this weekend and the Jacks are going to have to play for something more in important than the Dakota Marker: their own pride.
“It might be good medicine for our football team,” Stiegelmeier said. “We have to get our heads up. That will be our biggest challenge. Surely, they are a good football team and we’ll have to do things to perfection.”