Jacks fly past Southern Utah for seventh win

Jeremy Fugleberg

Jeremy Fugleberg

A balanced attack and a never-say-die attitude kept the Jackrabbit football team tied for first in the Great West Conference.

Under an overcast sky and despite a brisk, shifting wind, Andy Kardoes passed for 190 yards and two touchdowns to lead South Dakota State to a 31-21 win over Southern Utah on Nov. 11.

Behind a dominating offensive line, Anthony Watson escaped tackles and powered through the Thunderbirds, rushing for 128 yards and a touchdown for the Jackrabbits.

It was the seventh straight win for South Dakota State and sets up a Great West showdown Nov. 18 between the Jackrabbits and conference co-leader North Dakota State.

The Bison stayed unbeaten with a 51-14 thumping of the Cal Poly Mustangs the same day.

Southern Utah quarterback Wes Marshall completed 21 of 33 passes for 243 yards and a touchdown for Southern Utah, which lost its sixth straight.

Although the Thunderbirds outgained South Dakota State in yardage, they also committed three turnovers, two of which led directly to Jackrabbit scores.

“The thing that cost us the game was turnovers,” said Wes Meier, Thunderbirds head coach. “You sit there and cringed every time the ball was on the floor.”

Trailing 21-0 at halftime, Southern Utah got back into the game with two touchdowns in a 40-second span in the third quarter. Kyle Coop ran for a 78-yard touchdown with 10:14 left, then after the Thunderbirds’ Jovan Jackson recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Southern Utah scored again on a broken play.

Marshall fumbled at the Jackrabbit 18, but Joey Hew Len recovered at the 13 and ran it in for the touchdown.

Jackrabbit linebacker Marty Kranz said the defense missed some assignments on Coop’s long touchdown run. But, he said, they were able to get the problems fixed right away.

“We knew what went wrong right away, so we corrected them,” he said. “We just tried to keep everything underneath us.”

The Thunderbirds’ 14-point gain should’ve been a momentum shift. The one-two touchdown punch could’ve put the Jackrabbits down for the count.

But with the attitude that has brought them back for wins all season, the team fought back and capped a balanced 68-yard attack with Kardoes’ 1-yard touchdown pass to Chris Wagner.

“We kept our cool,” said Kardoes. “It was weird – everybody on the sideline, nobody was freaking out.”

“The psyche, the mindset, how you go out on the field, based on what happened the play before is huge. And our guys play in the present. They forget what happened,” said Stiegelmeier.

The Thunderbirds weren’t finished yet, however. Marshall got Southern Utah back within a touchdown, 28-21, with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Bobby Pond on the first play of the fourth quarter.

But on the next series, Jackrabbits kicker Parker Douglass made it a two-score game, by kicking a booming 53-yard field goal to make it 31-21 with 9:25 left.

The Thunderbirds were crushed under a series of incomplete passes and devastating sacks that finished off any chance of a comeback.