SDSU battles for conference

Zach Anderson

Zach Anderson

In front of the largest crowd ever at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium, the Jackrabbits defeated number one ranked North Dakota State University 29-24 Saturday, Nov. 17. As the game clock neared zero, SDSU fans rushed onto the field to join the team as they won the Great West Football championship, rasied the GWFC plaque and received the Dakota Marker.

SDSU (7-4, 4-0 conference) snapped NDSU’s (10-1, 3-1 conference) 14-game winning streak and ended their perfect season. In a game that saw NDSU rally from a 23-3 deficit to take the lead 24-23, Cory Koenig broke away for a 42-yard touchdown on a fourth and one to take the lead back at 29-24. NDSU senior quarterback Steve Walker had a chance with 1:51 left in the fourth quarter. Walker ran for 11 yards and passed for 11 yards on the final drive before being intercepted by defensive back Brock Gentile with 1:17 remaining. “The dice didn’t roll the right way today,” Walker said.

Special teams played a big role for the Jackrabbits as Cole Brodie blocked NDSU punter Mike Dragosavich’s punt that led to a Koenig one-yard touchdown run. Paul Aanonson returned a punt 94 yards for a touchdown setting the single-season record for punt return yards. “They were huge obviously,” SDSU quarterback Ryan Berry said. “Paul’s 94-yard punt return might have been the biggest play of the game.”

“It just felt right. I trusted my blockers and went with it,” Aanonson said. “I remember getting touched after about 10 yards then looking up and only seeing the punter.”

A fumbled kick return on the first play of the third quarter by NDSU’s Shamen Washington led to a Parker Douglass field goal.

Koenig led the Jackrabbit ground attack with 22 rushes for 133 yards and two touchdowns. Berry completed 14 of his 23 passes for 104 yards. Chris Doblar led all Jackrabbit receivers with five catches for 41 yards. Linebacker Jimmy Rogers led the Jacks with 13 tackles and a forced fumble. Douglass connected on three of four field goals of 31, 29 and 27 yards; he missed from 41 yards.

For the Bison, Walker completed 16 of his 28 passes for 173 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Junior Tyler Roehl had 79 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns. Alex Belquist had five catches for 58 yards and Kole Heckendorf had five catches for 54 yards. Junior tight end Jerimiah Wurzbacher caught three passes and had one touchdown. Senior linebacker Joe Mays led the defense with 11 tackles.

The Jackrabbits had 282 total yards of offense compared to 278 yards for the Bison. The Jacks out-rushed the Bison 178 to 105. The Bison passed for 173 yards compared to the Jacks 104 yards.

This conference championship is SDSU’s first since 1963. “That is kind of an emotional burst,” Jackrabbit Coach John Stiegelmeier said. “Players get to jump up and down, a guy like me would get hurt if I did that.”