Defensive showcase lifts Jacks over Bears

Jakob King, Sports Reporter

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Carried by a defense that forced 10 punts and three turnovers on 15 possessions, No. 5 South Dakota State topped Missouri State 35-14 Saturday afternoon at Robert W. Plaster Stadium to get back in the win column.

With redshirt freshman quarterback J’Bore Gibbs sidelined with an injury, true freshman Keaton Heide got his first career start for the Jackrabbits.

The young quarterback took advantage of his opportunity with an efficient performance, completing 58% of his passes for 173 yards and a touchdown. He was supported by a running game that amassed 232 yards and scored three times.

“After the first quarter, after taking a couple hits, I became more comfortable in the pocket,” Heide said in a postgame radio interview. “Having the trust of my teammates just made everything that much easier.”

Heide’s performance in his first start on the road in Missouri Valley Football Conference play was enough to draw praise from his head coach.

“I thought he did very well,” said SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier. “I thought we put some pressure on him by not getting calls in on time, but I thought he made some good throws, and he had some drops — it could have been a lot more yards and completions.”

The SDSU (7-2, 4-1 MVFC) defense made its mark on the game early, holding MSU (1-7, 0-5 MVFC) to just 91 yards, intercepting two passes and not allowing any third-down conversions in the first half.

The Jacks jumped out to an early lead when Heide found senior receiver Adam Anderson for a ten-yard touchdown — the first score of the season for the Anderson and the first career touchdown pass for Heide. However, kicker Chase Vinatieri missed his fourth extra point of the season to keep the score 6-0 early.

SDSU doubled its lead in the second quarter when Mike Daniel plunged into the end zone from one yard out for his fifth touchdown of the season. After a two-point conversion, the Jacks extended the lead to 14-0.

After the SDSU defense intercepted its 12th pass of the season, the Jacks had a chance to extend their lead before halftime, but a Vinatieri field goal attempt bounced harmlessly off the upright, keeping the lead at two scores as the teams went to halftime. 

The Bears’ defense did their part to keep MSU in the game. On the Jacks’ first drive of the second half, they decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the Bears’ 14-yard line because of Vinatieri’s kicking struggles, but Daniel was stopped short of the line to gain.

MSU’s offense again failed to create points, and after punting the ball back to the Jacks, sophomore running back C.J. Wilson took a handoff 41 yards for a touchdown to give SDSU a 21-0 lead with less than four minutes remaining in the third quarter.

The Bears responded with a 57-yard touchdown run by Jeremiah Wilson and recovered a fumble to get back in the game early in the fourth quarter, but it was too late for a rally.

On the Jacks’ ensuing possession, senior receiver Cade Johnson took a shovel pass from running back Pierre Strong Jr. 89 yards to the end zone to extend the lead to 28-7 and put the game away. Each team tacked on one more touchdown in the closing moments to bring the game to its final score.

Johnson led all SDSU receivers with 164 yards on five receptions while Strong led SDSU on the ground with 99 yards on 18 carries. Linebacker Seven Wilson led the defense with 12 tackles.

On MSU’s side, quarterback Peyton Huslig went 15-for-32 for one touchdown and two interceptions while Wilson recorded 87 yards on 12 carries, the bulk of which came on his long scoring run.

The Jacks return to Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium for Military Appreciation Day at 2 p.m. next Saturday, Nov. 9, to host No. 7 Illinois State.