South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

Jacks Comeback

No. 1 SDSU wins thriller over No. 3 Montana State
Joclyn Haven
The SDSU football team celebrates after its 20-16 win over the Montana State Bobcats at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium. The Jackrabbits keep their No. 1 overall rank in the Football Subdivision Conference.

In front of a sellout crowd at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium Saturday, the Jackrabbits pulled off a second half comeback to knock off fellow top ranked team Montana State, 20-16. 

For the third time in just 18 games, The Jackrabbits and the Bobcats went toe-to-toe once again. The last two contests between these teams were in the semifinals of each of the last two playoffs, with Montana State taking the first bout in Bozeman, 31-17, and the Jackrabbits picking up the 39-18 win 364 days later in Brookings.  

While this game wasn’t for a spot in the National Championship, it still had a playoff atmosphere, with playoff seeding implications. 

 The Jackrabbit faithful showed up strong, with an official attendance of 19,332, it ties a record for second most in Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium, matching the 28-3 win over South Dakota just last season.  

And to say the crowd was a factor is an understatement, as they helped force nine false start penalties throughout the game. 

However, the Jackrabbits started off slow in the first half, after a quick three-and-out from the Bobcats, quarterback Mark Gronowski fumbled attempting to escape the pocket. 

Even without star senior linebacker Adam Bock, the Jackrabbit defense held strong against the #3 team in the FCS. Giving up 298 total yards, the Bobcats scored just one touchdown on their second drive of the game, capitalizing on the early turnover with a 2-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Sean Chambers. The Jackrabbits were held to just 17 total yards on nine plays in the first quarter, and 91 total yards for the half. 

Going into halftime facing a 10-point deficit, SDSU knew they weren’t playing their best football. 

“I told them at halftime that it’s a 60-minute game,” head coach Jimmy Rogers said. “We didn’t play our best half, and we responded in the second half.” 

And they responded fast. Coming out of halftime, the Jackrabbits took the opening possession right down the field, capping off the drive with a 20-yard touchdown run by Gronowski. They followed that up with another touchdown, this time a 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zach Heins to open the fourth quarter. 

After the touchdown to put the Jackrabbits up 13-10 with 14:15 to go, junior kicker Hunter Dustman missed the extra point, breaking his streak of 67 consecutive made PATs, and the SDSU streak of 139. 

 The special team’s unit would continue to struggle, giving up a huge return on the ensuing kickoff, as well as giving up a blocked punt on the next offensive possession, that would give the Bobcats the ball at the SDSU 1-yard line. Montana State would have to settle for a field goal, after failing to punch it in. 

The SDSU defense only allowed six points in the fourth quarter, even after all three Bobcat drives got into Jackrabbit territory. Senior strong safety Cale Reeder made a huge play in the fourth quarter with an interception but was a huge factor in the defensive effort throughout the game. 

“It’s awesome to hold a team to three points when they’re on the 1-yard line,” Reeder said. “That’s the goal of the defense, or to take that ball away, so I’m glad were able to hold them to a field goal and still keep the game within reach.” 

Down 16-13 with 2:04 to go in the game, it took the Jackrabbits just 34 seconds to take the lead and keep it. A 40-yard completion to Grahm Goering, followed by a 35-yard touchdown pass to true freshman Griffin Wilde gave the SDSU the 20-16 lead with 1:30 to play.  

“It was a really cool experience,” Wilde said. “I heard the play call in the huddle, I think the O-line kicked out three or four guys, all I had to do was run.” 

The win for the Jackrabbits didn’t come without its share of controversial calls. With 90 seconds to play, the Bobcats drove down the field and thought they had scored the game winning touchdown as time expired, off a catch from wide receiver Clevan Thomas Jr.  

However, after a replay review, it was ruled that Thomas Jr.’s foot was out-of-bounds before catching the ball, with one second left. On the last play of the game, Chambers’s pass to the endzone was batted down, giving the Jackrabbits the 20-16 victory. 

Quarterback Mark Gronowski finished the game 13-of-22 for 184 yards and two touchdowns, adding another 26 yards and a score on the ground. 

Isaiah Davis finished with 12 carries for 66 yards, while Amar Johnson had five carries for 47 yards, including a 26-yard run that helped spark the second-half comeback. 

Jaxon Janke caught 3 passes for 28 yards in the game. Griffin Wilde finished with two catches for 49 yards and a touchdown. The Sioux Falls-Native isn’t wasting any time making his presence felt in the offense. Heins finished with two catches for 25 yards and a score as well. 

On the defensive end, Saiveon Williamson, and Colby Huerter each recorded 10 tackles. Reeder finished with eight tackles and an interception, and Tucker Large added another seven tackles. 

Now with all the momentum in the world, the Jackrabbits take that confidence to the Twin Cities This Saturday, where they will face off against the Drake Bulldogs at Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins. 

“I’m really excited, it’s always been a dream of mine,” Gronowski said, talking about playing at Target Field. “I think it’s going to be a cool experience next week.” 

 This will be the third college football game ever played at Target Field, and the first since 2019, with the last two games peaking an average of roughly 36,000 fans in attendance. 

In 2017, then- Division III St. Thomas and St. John’s played in the first ever Target field game, with 37,355 fans in attendance. Then, it was North Dakota State taking on Butler in 2019, in front of 34,544 fans. 

Drake comes into this game 0-2 overall on the season. After suffering a brutal 55-7 loss to North Dakota and another overtime loss to in-state, NAIA Northwestern, the Bulldogs will come into Target Field hungry, seeking win number one and an upset bid on the #1 team in the FCS. 

Even after a huge win against a ranked opponent that some might say is the birth of a new rivalry, coach Rogers knows the last thing you want to do is get caught up in the moment. 

“Rivalry, I don’t know, I just think about winning this next game,” Rogers said. “I’m going to be locked in on Drake moving forward and winning that game. You look too far ahead, and you think things are easy and that’s when you slip up.” 

SDSU has done a good job of that, moving to 2-0 on the season, and extending their win streak to 16 games, with their last loss coming at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes back in their first game of the 2022 campaign. They look to make it 17 on Saturday. 

SDSU and Drake will kick-off at Target Field on Saturday, September 16, at 2:30 p.m. 

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