Jackrabbits run past Illinois State, remain undefeated

Chris Mangan

Chris Mangan

The Jackrabbit defense finally surrendered a touchdown, but it was the SDSU offense that stole the show.

On Sept. 26, the Jacks (3-0, 2-0) jumped out to a 21-10 halftime lead and cruised to a 38-17 victory over Illinois State (1-3, 0-1) in Normal, Ill. During the second quarter, the Jacks found themselves trailing for the first time all year after Illinois State’s Chris Garrett returned a Ryan Crawford interception for a touchdown. SDSU answered back in a big way, as the Jacks posted 31 straight points.

“Our football program is full of great leaders,” Jackrabbit head coach John Stiegelmeier said. “I don’t think they viewed it as adversity, but as a challenge and an opportunity to battle back, and tonight we were able to do that. It’s a good lesson if you believe, you work hard and keep doing what we ask you to do, good things can happen.”

The Jacks trailed for just under four minutes before Kyle Minett picked up the first of his two touchdowns on the day. Minett’s 11-yard run put the Jacks up for good.

With the Redbirds trying to cut into the Jacks’ lead right before halftime, SDSU’s Jake Steffen picked off a Matt Brown pass.

Following a penalty that backed the Jacks up to their 38, Crawford found Glenn Fox for a 62-yard touchdown.

“They forced us to throw the ball a couple of times when there was too much coverage, and that shouldn’t have happened. It definitely hurt us,” Illinois State’s head coach Brock Spack said. “Brown is a young guy, and we hope he’ll learn from some of the mistakes that were made tonight. He had a tough night.”

With the Jacks up 31-10, Minett scored from 64 yards out to secure SDSU’s best start since 2000.

“The first half was pretty tough,” Minett said. “Illinois State was going to try and stop our run game with Crawford being a first-year starting quarterback. We made a few adjustments, and they did too because we passed on them pretty effectively in first half. That loosened up the run game a little for the second half.”

With the win all but locked up, the only thing that remained to be seen was if the Jackrabbit defense would finish off their third straight game without giving up a touchdown. With 10 seconds remaining in the game, Matt Lancaster scored from seven yards out that ended the Jackrabbits’ streak just short of 12 quarters.

Crawford finished 17-of-28 for 197 yards and two touchdowns while Minett rushed for 146 yards and the two scores, earning him Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Player of the Week. Steffen earned MVFC Defensive Player of the Week with 10 tackles, 3.5 for a loss.

“We are excited to get a win on the road,” Stiegelmeier said. “It’s a long trip out here, and this will make it a lot quicker to get home. We’re excited to get a win in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.”

The Jacks return to action on Oct. 3 when they take on Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, Calif. Kickoff is slated for 8 p.m.