Jackrabbits run past Bison, next up UNI

Chris Mangan

Chris Mangan

For the third straight year, the Dakota Marker will remain in Brookings.

The Jacks downed North Dakota State 28-13 on Oct. 17 to retain the Dakota Marker and improve to 5-1 on the season and remains unbeaten in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

The Jacks fell behind 7-0 when NDSU scored on the opening drive of the game, but the lead would be short -lived for the Bison, as the Jacks scored 21 straight. Seven of those points came from an interception by Derek Domino, which he returned for a touchdown.

The pick six for Domino came after the Jacks were stuffed on a fourth-and-1 on the Bison 13.

“Huge,” head coach John Stiegelmeier said of Domino’s touchdown. “It came right after we went for it on fourth down, and we didn’t get it. It made me feel a lot better, because I was thinking that we should have kicked the field goal. He had an unbelievable night tonight.”

The defense turned in another solid effort at home after struggling at times on the road. The Bison were held scoreless in the second half and gained just 252 yards of total offense. The Jacks forced two Bison turnovers, both coming on interceptions by Domino of NDSU quarterback Nick Mertens.

Kyle Minett led the Jackrabbit attack, carrying the ball 34 times, a career-high, for 164 yards and two scores. Minett has found the end zone in 11 straight games. Tyler Duffy helped carry the workload on the ground, picking up 48 yards on just nine carries. Duffy’s second-quarter touchdown put the Jacks up 21-7.

“Our running backs fought for every yard tonight,” quarterback Thomas O’Brien said. “We got a lot of extra yards tonight, and that leads to wins. Our line played phenomenal. We sat behind those guys, and we rode them to a victory. The win is everything to the O-Line. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Even though this is the third straight win for the Jacks over the Bison, it is the only one that has been by a comfortable margin. In the previous two Dakota Marker games, the Jacks won by a combined six points.

With the Dakota Marker staying in Brookings for another year, the Jacks now turn their attention to Northern Iowa on Hobo Day.

The Panthers are looking to bounce back after a 27-20 setback to Southern Illinois, their second loss of the season.

The defense has been a strong point for UNI this season, as they are limiting opponents to 13.1 points per game and just 273.4 yards per game. The Hobo Day game may be a battle of defenses, as the Jacks are limiting opponents to just 12.3 points per game and 266.8 yards per game.

While the defenses may be the strong points of both teams, the offenses are nothing to be ashamed of. Each team is averaging over 30 points per game. The Panthers average 455 yards per game, while the Jacks put up 356 yards per game.

The Panthers attack will be led by quarterback Pat Grace. Grace is averaging 241 passing yards per game and has 17 touchdowns compared to just three interceptions.

While the game is on Hobo Day against a conference opponent that usually finishes in the top two of the MVFC, the Jacks are not going to treat the game any differently.

“I don’t think it is a must-win, but we are going to go into the game treating it that way,” Minett said after the NDSU game. “Tonight was the biggest game of the year for us, and next week is the biggest game of the year as well. We have to treat every game like that. UNI is going to be ready to go, and they have a great squad, but we are going to be ready, too.”

While the Jacks are sitting at 5-1 and tied for first in the MVFC, Minett doesn’t think the Jacks have played the way they are capable of yet this year.

“I don’t think we have played a perfect game this year,” the junior running back said after the win. “The first couple of home games we had were big wins, but the first half, we didn’t execute like we should have, and that happened today, too. One point of emphasis was to get first downs and win the field position battle even if we didn’t get touchdowns. It helps our confidence knowing that we can play better, and yet we handled a pretty good team pretty easily tonight.”

The Hobo Day game starts at 2 p.m. on Oct. 24 at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium.