Jacks face Salukis for conference title

Chris Mangan

Chris Mangan

After a successful trip to Youngstown, Ohio, the Jackrabbit football team now turns its attention to Southern Illinois and its chance at the Missouri Valley Football Conference title.

In the win over Youngstown State, the Jacks fell behind early but held the Penguins scoreless the rest of the way, posting a 17-3 victory on Oct. 31.

The Jacks methodically drove down the field on their first possession of the game but left points on the field when Peter Reifenrath missed a 26-yard field goal.

Youngstown State answered the Jackrabbit drive with one of their own. The Penguins had an 11-play drive that was capped off by a 48-yard field goal by Stephen Blose. That was all the Penguins would muster, though, as the Jacks ratcheted up their defense the rest of the game.

Reifenrath would redeem himself in the second quarter when he nailed a 25-yard field goal that capped a 15-play, 75-yard drive to knot the score at 3-3, where it would remain for the rest of the first half.

The second half was all about the Jackrabbits and Kyle Minett. Derek Domino picked off Brandon Summers on the first play from scrimmage in the second half. The Jacks took the lead for good when they capped off a seven-play, 32-yard drive with a Minett touchdown from five yards out.

Youngstown State was looking to answer on their next drive, but Blose missed a 41-yard field goal; it would be the last time the Penguins would threaten to score on the Jacks.

With 9:46 left in the game, the Jackrabbits started a drive that would put the game away. Starting on their own 34, the Jacks moved the ball down the field in chunks of yardage at a time, and Minett ended the drive with a 1-yard score to ice the game.

The game also marked the return of quarterback Ryan Crawford. Crawford, who was injured in the Cal Poly game on Oct. 3, was 19-of-28 for 178 yards.

The defense was stifling again for the Jacks, giving up 254 yards of offense as they held an opponent without a touchdown for the third time this season. Danny Batten led the charge for the Jacks on defense, recording eight tackles including a sack. Jimmy Rogers and Isaiah Jackson also pitched in eight tackles.

The Jacks now turn their attention to the Southern Illinois contest, a game that will decide the MVFC champion and the automatic qualifier for the playoffs. The Jacks and Salukis will square off at 1 p.m. on Nov. 7 at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium

The Salukis are currently sitting at 7-1, with the only loss coming to FBS Marshall during their first game.

The Salukis will be without quarterback Chris Dieker, who broke his clavicle in the win over Youngstown State. Paul McIntosh will be making his second career start against the Jacks. On Oct. 31, McIntosh went 15-of-22 for 159 yards and ran for 57 yards and two scores, as he was named the MVFC Offensive Player of the Week.

The Jacks will have to be stout against the run as they face the nation’s second best rusher. Deji Karim is averaging 139.1 yards per game as he has racked up 1,113 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns this season. Karim is also a threat on kickoffs, averaging 35.1 yards per return this season.

The game could come down to a defensive battle, as both teams are solid on that side of the ball. The Jacks are giving up just 11.4 points per game, which is top in the nation, while Southern Illinois is giving up 14.1 points per game.