Jacks come back against winless Southern Utah

Chris Mangan

Chris Mangan

After two-and-a-half quarters, it looked like the Jackrabbit football team would go down to the Southern Utah Thunderbirds, providing the first win for the T-Birds in over a year.

Luckily for the Jacks, there was another quarter-and-a-half to play and they were able to come back to win 52-27.

“It was just fast. It just happened like that,” said Southern Utah coach Wes Meier.

With the Jacks (6-4, 3-0 GWFC) trailing 27-16 and the T-Birds(0-10, 0-4) facing a third and short late in the third quarter, the Jacks defense stuffed the T-Birds twice, forcing a turnover on possession.

“That was huge because they have all this momentum,” Head Coach John Stiegelmeier said. “We don’t score a point there but we stop them.”

Three plays later, with the Jacks facing their own third and short, junior quarterback Ryan Berry found senior tight end Chris Wagner, who turned the first down into a 55-yard touchdown. Just like that, the momentum had swung to the Jacks, and they never looked back.

For the second year in a row, the Jacks will face North Dakota State University for the Great West Championship as well as the Dakota Marker in the last game of the season. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium.

“I expect a good game,” Stiegelmeier said. “I expect we’re going to play our best football. We haven’t won a conference championship since 1963 at South Dakota State. Last year we competed and we got close and didn’t get it done, this year we need to play better.”

Senior defensive back Tyler Koch had another huge week for the Jacks, intercepting two passes and returning both for touchdowns, one of which was a school record 99-yard return. In the past two weeks, Koch had five interceptions and was named the Great West Defensive Player of the Week.

“He’s a good football player,” Stiegelmeier said. “[Koch] doesn’t allow the emotions to get him out of the game, and he’s reaping the benefits this year.”

The Jacks took an early 16-0 lead on a pair of touchdown runs from senior running back Cory Koenig and a field goal from senior Parker Douglass. But the T-Birds scored the next 27 points, including a short kick that they recovered and turned into a field goal on the ensuing drive.

“I think some of the points we got in the first period were too easy. We didn’t have to work for them, they came quick,” Stiegelmeier said. “I think a human being has a tendency to relax a little bit and we shouldn’t have because they came back in a big way.”

Berry finished 17-31 for 201 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Koenig finished with 113 yards, the fourth straight game that he has rushed for over 100 yards. The Jacks were without junior wide receiver JaRon Harris but he is expected to be back at full speed against NDSU.

#1.883090:644377179.jpg:footballtouchdowncatchJN.jpg:Wide receiver Glen Fox catches a touchdown pass over Southern Utah’s Akeem Anifowoshe in late game action.: