Jackrabbits break Mustangs’ stride

Brian Kimmes

Brian Kimmes

While 9,000-plus Mustang fans filed out of the stadium, SDSU completed one of the greatest comebacks in school history.

Scoring 23 unanswered points during the last eight minutes of the game, the Jackrabbits captured a stunning 29-28 victory against the No. Four California Polytechnic University Mustangs Saturday night in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

Entering the game, the Mustangs’ defense allowed an average of 9.7 points per game, not having given up more than 17 total points during the season.

Quarterback Andy Kardoes and wide receiver JaRon Harris hooked up for three fourth-quarter touchdowns to propel the Jacks to victory.

After the Jacks scored their first touchdown, the players started to believe they had a chance to come back.

“On the sideline after we scored the first touchdown, everybody started saying ‘McNeese’ and it just seemed like that’s what happened. It’s karma,” Kardoes said.

Before the Jacks scored their second touchdown, the team looked to be in trouble. Kardoes was knocked out of the game for three plays, before returning to complete a dramatic fourth and goal touchdown pass.

On the last score, Kardoes completed a 19-yard pass to Harris for the duo’s third touchdown completion.

“Me and JaRon, we just called an audible … JaRon ran a hell of a route. I just threw it where it had to be and he did the rest,” Kardoes said.

Instead of attempting the extra point and playing for overtime, the Jackrabbits went for the two-point conversion and the win. Head Coach John Stiegelmeier originally wanted to attempt the extra point, but Kardoes talked Stiegelmeier out of it.

“I looked Stig in the eye and I’m like, ‘Coach, I swear to God I’ll get this ball in the end zone. Just let me run it in.’ He looked at me and knew I was going to do it,” Kardoes said.

He also said the offensive line was playing an outstanding game, and the team “knew we were going to be able to get the ball in.”

Kardoes finished the game with 250 passing yards and three touchdowns.

“Andy Kardoes is a winner in bold letters,” Stiegelmeier said.

Stiegelmeier stressed his team believed all along it had a chance to win and belief was essential in the victory against Cal Poly.

“The only way you can win that game is if you believe at the start of the football game and that belief is still there ? I call it just staying the course and believing in yourself and believing in the football team,” he said.

Kardoes also said belief in the team was instrumental in the Jacks’ victory.

“We got a team that believes in each other … Everybody did it, believing in each other and we won the game,” he said.

Stiegelmeier believed in Kardoes enough to give the ball to the quarterback to go for the win instead of the tie.

“He (Kardoes) defines belief … Who better to know he can do it than the guy carrying the ball, and when he does that, when he says that, when anybody would say that, you know they’re going to do everything they can and that’s all I can ask of kids,” Stiegelmeier said.

If it weren’t for Harris catching Kardoes’ passes, the Jacks would have lost the game.

“He (Harris) is a break-out player. He’s a stud. I love the guy,” said Kardoes.

Stiegelmeier said Harris has “become a special player.”

Cal Poly Head Coach Rich Ellerson said the Jacks held onto their belief they could win, and Harris and Kardoes had spectacular performances.

“A lot of credit for the win needs to go to the offensive line,” said Stiegelmeier.

He also said Cal Poly has an “unbelievable defense,” and the offensive line did a fabulous job in giving Kardoes enough to complete the passes.

“The skill guy always gets the credit, but the fat guy always has a major part,” he said.

This victory ranks as one of the biggest in SDSU history. Stiegelmeier said it was a special victory ranking at, or near, the top of the list.

Although the win ranks as one of the biggest in school history, Kardoes said the team’s motto is to go 1-0 every week, and this win doesn’t change the focus.

“It is a big victory, but we got to go right back to work tomorrow.”

The spectacular fashion the Jacks used to defeat the No.-4 team in the country and the top-rated defense, can be best summed up by SDSU alum and football parent Dana Dykhouse.

“This is once in a lifetime … It just can’t happen.”

#1.884126:2341546218.jpeg:Koch.jpg .jpeg:Adam Fritz, Tyler Koch, and Jeff Hegge celebrate after Koch’s last-minute interception:Eric Landwehr#1.884125:900686533.jpeg:Kardoes_for_2.jpg .jpeg:Andy Kardoes dives into the end zone to give the Jacks the win.:Eric Landwehr