Second-half comeback leads to Jacks win over UND

Marshall Minihan, Sports Reporter

Despite trailing by two touchdowns early, the South Dakota State Jackrabbit football team rallied in the second half to defeat No. 20 North Dakota 49-35 Saturday in Grand Forks. 

The top-ranked Jackrabbits improved to 7-1 overall this season and 5-0 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. UND falls to 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the MVFC. 

“We didn’t come out firing and they punched us in the mouth coming out, but our team battled back, and it was a great win overall,” quarterback Mark Gronowski said. 

North Dakota started the game off strong on both sides of the ball. UND quarterback Tommy Schuster moved the Hawks down the field and threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Bo Belquist on their opening drive. 

Following an SDSU punt, North Dakota would run the return to SDSU’s 11-yard line. Just a few plays later, UND would score off a sneak from their backup quarterback Quincy Vaughn to stretch the score to 14-0. 

North Dakota got the ball back again and looked for the end zone for the third consecutive drive. But SDSU cornerback DyShawn Gales jumped in front of a Schuster throw and ran it back 29 yards to put the Jackrabbits on the board. 

The Fighting Hawks would answer back shortly after the interception with a 2-yard rushing touchdown by Tyler Hoosman. Both Hoosman and Schuster had 15 carries each during the game, with Hoosman rushing 44 yards and Schuster for 19. 

The Jacks would cut the UND lead back to seven points after Gronowski found tight end Tucker Kraft for a 32-yard touchdown pass. This was Kraft’s first game back from injury after going down in the first game of the season against Iowa. Kraft finished the game with 53 yards and one touchdown. 

“(Kraft) is a really good football player, and he has worked very hard and is deserving of the plays he makes and it’s good to have him back healthy,” Jacks coach John Stiegelmeier said. 

The Jackrabbit defense would get another interception at the end of the half when Malik Lofton picked off a Shuster pass deep to the end zone. With that, UND took a 21-14 lead into halftime. 

The Jacks would then proceed to score 21 unanswered points in the third quarter. 

On their opening drive of the second half, Gronowski brought the Jacks to the 10-yard line before hitting Jaxon Janke for a touchdown to put the game at 21-21. 

After forcing the Fighting Hawks to punt, Jadon Janke would make half of the UND punt team miss tackles and return the ball 58 yards to give the Jackrabbits good field position at the 8-yard line. The Jacks would go on and score just three plays later on a two-yard pass to tight end Zach Heins. 

The Jackrabbits would go on and score another touchdown in the third quarter, a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Gronowski to put SDSU up 35-21. No team has scored in the third quarter against the Jackrabbits since they played Missouri State in week four. 

SDSU would score their fourth unanswered touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 10-yard touchdown run from Gronowski. 

North Dakota would finally put points on the board for the first time in the second half after moving down the field 74 yards. From nine yards out, Schuster would scramble into the endzone to cut the deficit to 42-28. 

With just over six minutes left in the game, tailback Amar Johnson would score SDSU’s final touchdown to put the Jacks back up by 21. Johnson took over the starting spot this week due to an injury to Star back Isaiah Davis. Johnson went for 14 carries on the day for 71 yards and a score. 

UND would score the final touchdown of the game, coming off a blocked punt near the end of the fourth quarter. 

With Adam Bock leaving the field with an injury early in the game, Isaiah Stalbird and Jason Freeman stepped up defensively with eight tackles each. SDSU sacked Schuster five times on the day with a sack coming from five different Jackrabbits, the second most sacks in a game this season against UND. Along with the two interceptions, Stalbird picked up a fumble recovery for the Jacks as well. 

“It was tough losing Bock, he leads the defense and he’s always getting us going, but it is always next man up,” Gales said. 

Gronowski finished 15-20 for 197 yards and three touchdowns for the Jackrabbit offense. He also ran for 26 yards and two touchdowns on the day. Jadon Janke led the team with 86 receiving yards and a touchdown. Jaxon Janke had three receptions for 33 yards and a touchdown. 

For UND, Schuster went 27-39 passing on the day, throwing for 291 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Belquist was the yards leader for the Fighting Hawks, going for 82 yards on six receptions. 

SDSU heads back home for Hobo Day and is set to play Indiana State at 2 p.m. Oct. 29 at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.