Jackrabbits cruise past Holy Cross and advance in the playoffs


Photo from GoJacks.com

Skyler Jackson, Sports Reporter (He/Him)

The South Dakota State Jackrabbits football team will move on in the 2021 FCS playoffs after defeating Holy Cross in the first round 31-3 Saturday at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings. 

The top-seeded Jackrabbits (6-1) put together yet another impressive performance on both sides of the ball, putting up 439 yards of total offense and a defense that kept the Crusaders (3-1) out of the end zone.

“I’m excited to get a win and excited to have another opportunity to play another game,” coach John Stiegelmeier said. “I don’t think it was always pretty for us today, but some days you just go to work.”

Offensively, the Jackrabbits were a well-balanced attack. They were most effective running the ball, rushing for 281 yards on the second-best rush defense in the nation. Isaiah Davis led the way with 156 yards on 10 carries and a 60-yard touchdown run. Pierre Strong Jr. added 76 yards.

Sophomore offensive lineman Mason McCormick knew the offensive line had their match cut out for them upfront.

“I think the biggest thing for us was our effort,” McCormick said. “We saw in film that they play hard and they’re a well-coached football team, so we knew that we had to play with good technique that matched our effort.”

While the Jacks had success running the ball, they were also efficient at throwing the ball. Quarterback Mark Gronowski threw for 153 yards on 12-21 and three touchdowns, including a 45-yarder to Jadon Janke in the third quarter, that put the game away.

“We had good momentum going into that drive,” Gronowski said. “We just thought we’d take advantage of our opportunity. We wanted to take a shot, and it worked out.”

For the second time this season, the Jackrabbit defense kept their opponent out of the end zone. Every time the Crusaders seemed to gain some offensive momentum, the Jacks defense stiffened, producing four sacks. Adam Bock led the team with nine tackles, and Preston Tetzlaff added eight.

“We just got confidence in our defense,” Logan Backhaus, who finished with two sacks, said. “We knew they were going to try and run the ball, but when we needed to, we stepped up and made plays.”

The SDSU special teams unit also played a pivotal role, blocking a field goal and recovering a muffed punt that set up scoring drives for the offense.

For the Holy Cross offense, they were able to move the ball well but could never capitalize. The Crusaders had 198 yards of total offense, 112 of them coming on the ground. Peter Oliver was their leading rusher with 52 yards on nine attempts.

The Jackrabbits will host Southern Illinois at 8 p.m., May 2, after SIU’s dramatic 34-31 win over Weber State. SDSU beat the Salukis 44-3 in Carbondale, Illinois, during the regular season.