Jacks lasso Cowboys

Brian Kimmes

Brian Kimmes

The memory of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse loss may be quickly fading from the minds of Jackrabbit football players and fans.

For the second week in a row, SDSU traveled to Louisiana and defeated a Division I-AA-ranked opponent. The Jacks knocked off no. 16 McNeese State University, 20-17.

The Jacks rallied late in the game for a thrilling come-from-behind victory. They were down, 17-6, at halftime, and missing starting quarterback Andy Kardoes. He was knocked out in the first half with an injured jaw, but returned to the game after X-rays at a local hospital came back negative.

Head Coach John Stiegelmeier said getting Kardoes back was “bigger than any play.” He said the team had more confidence with their starting quarterback present.

Despite being down by 11 and unsure about Kardoes’ health at halftime, the Jacks remained optimistic.

“We never doubted ourselves. We always had a lot of confidence,” said place kicker Parker Douglass.

said place kicker Parker Douglass. He said the mindset of the team was “just don’t give up … leave all your heart, or leave everything out there on the field, just go out there and try and get a win for us.”

Stiegelmeier said the team “wanted a chance to get the heck back out there and redeem themselves.”

The Jacks’ comeback hopes looked bleak when backup quarterback Reed Burckhardt fumbled the exchange on a fourth and goal. The Cowboys recovered the ball on the 4-yard line, making a Jackrabbit loss appear likely.

However, the Jacks were not done. The team never gave up. After the fumble, Douglass said the team was “just like, we’re just going to get right back out there. The defense’s going to get out there, do their job, get a stop, and give us another chance.”

The defense did its job, and forced a punt. Kardoes returned to the game, driving the offense to a field goal with just less than 5 minutes left in regulation. That field goal brought the Jacks within one possession of tying the score.

It was also a big play for Douglass, who broke two SDSU school records: career field goal and career points.

He said the records meant more in a Jackrabbit victory.

“(The) win is way more important than those records. I’m just glad for our team, (we) had a lot of heart out here tonight. Everyone played their butts off,” Douglass said.

During the next Cowboy possession, the defense again performed well, forcing the Cowboys to punt.

On the Jacks’ next possession, the team needed only 31 seconds and two plays to score a touchdown. Kardoes connected with JaRon Harris for a 40-yard touchdown reception. The Jacks still needed to convert the two-point conversion to tie the game, though. Using a play-action pass, Kardoes found Luke Greving open in the end zone to tie the score with a little more than 2 minutes left to play. The Jacks had scored 11 points in a span of two-and-a-half minutes. If the defense could hold the Cowboys one more time, the Jackrabbits would have a chance to win in overtime.

The defense did more than just hold the Cowboys. On MSU’s first play, Mitch Pontrelli and Eric Schroeder sacked Cowboy quarterback Derri Fourroux for an 8-yard loss. SDSU then called its first timeout in hopes of getting the ball back.

Stiegelmeier said the defensive line made a great play and the coaching staff wanted to try and win the game in regulation and not wait for overtime. Stiegelmeier learned from one of his former basketball coaches you cannot play to not lose, you have to play to win.

Two more plays and two timeouts later, the Jackrabbits had the ball with 1 minute and 12 seconds left to play, and an improbable chance to win.

SDSU began the drive with its most consistently successful play of the night, a wide-receiver screen to Harris. A few more plays and the Jacks were in field-goal range. Douglass entered to attempt his fifth field goal of the night; this one, a 46-yarder. Douglass had previously made field goals of 32, 40 and 41 yards, but missed a 49-yarder. After a high snap, Douglass booted the game-winning field goal through the uprights.

“I was just focusing on the kick … I was just kind of waiting for the snap, I guess, just trying to clear my mind and just try to get the kick off and put it through for my team,” said Douglass.

“You just gotta be prepared for everything (high snap), I guess. I took a little stutter step, making sure he (the holder) got the ball down and everything.”

The win proves important for the Jacks. It builds some momentum heading into this week’s home game, and helps erase on an 0-3 start.

“It (the win) means a lot, starting off the season 0-3 and then everybody doubting us, not believing in us and everything, kind of hard for us and we just had to get over the hump sometime. This is a great win right here,” said Douglass.

#1.884200:1694089069.jpg:sdsuvsmcneese04(parker).jpg:Parker Douglass kicks one of his four field goals against the Cowboys. Douglass kicked the game-winning field goal with 14 seconds left.: