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 remain undefeated after close one against Southern Illinois

SDSU Athletics
Southern Illinois safety PJ Jules tackles South Dakota State’s Jadon Janke during a game at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale, Ill. Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023.

The Jackrabbits leave Carbondale, IL with a 17-10-win, spoiling homecoming for Southern Illinois.

This game was a true road test for SDSU, as Southern Illinois came into the game ranked No. 12 in the country, with the best run-stopping defense in the FCS.

The 605 Hogs and Co. stepped up to the challenge and shined, giving both Isaiah Davis and Amar Johnson room to run for 158 combined yards.

“That was a good team, that was a good defense,” coach Jimmy Rogers said. “They did a good job of bottling us up and getting the ball off track, but Isaiah Davis is hard to tackle when you give him the edge.”

Combined with the homecoming atmosphere on the road and a stout Saluki defense, the Jackrabbits had no shortage of challenges to overcome En route to their 21st consecutive victory.

In the first half, it was a defensive battle from both sides with the Jackrabbits managing just 109 total yards through two quarters, while Southern Illinois gained just 141.

SDSU won the toss and deferred, giving the Salukis the first opportunity to put points on the board.

After stopping the Salukis on third down, the Jackrabbits thought they had an early stop to begin the game.

However, the Salukis are one of the best teams in the FCS on fourth down. Coming into the game, Southern Illinois had attempted 18 fourth-down conversions on the season, with 13 of those reaching the line to gain.

Backed up at their own 40-yard line facing a fourth down and four to go, Southern Illinois head coach Nick Hill was not afraid to go into his bag of tricks.

The Salukis called a fake punt and converted on a Colton Hoag 21-yard direct snap.

Southern Illinois faced another fourth-and-short on the opening drive but was unable to convert deep into Jackrabbit territory.

The Salukis defense had a strong first half, forcing three Jackrabbit punts in their first five drives.

After back-to-back punts to start the game, SDSU sought to get points on the board. They drove down and got into the field goal range, but kicker Hunter Dustman missed the 48-yard attempt.

After an interception from quarterback Nic Baker to defensive back Dalys Beanum, the Jackrabbits were back on the move.

SDSU was able to overcome the first-half struggles momentarily, with senior running back Isaiah Davis finding the endzone from three yards out.

Dating back to last season, Isaiah Davis has now scored a touchdown in 12 straight games.

The Jackrabbit defense looked impressive throughout and a big factor in the win, forcing a turnover or punt on the first eight drives for the Salukis.

Coming out of halftime receiving the football, the Jackrabbits wasted no time at all extending their lead.

On just the third play of the second half, quarterback Mark Gronowski found true freshman Griffin Wilde for a 49-yard touchdown pass, giving the Jackrabbits a 14-0 lead.

The Sioux Falls, SD native has had a quiet start to Missouri Valley Football Conference play but was able to catch his fourth touchdown of the season in a crucial part of the game.

After exchanging punts, the Salukis were able to find a rhythm getting to the Jackrabbit 20-yard line, before a huge strip sack from senior defensive end Quinton Hicks stopped the momentum Southern Illinois had building.

Up 14-0, the Jackrabbits had a chance to put the game away at the SIU 13-yard line.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Gronowski had a pass intercepted by defensive back Mark Davis in the endzone, giving the Salukis the ball and a chance to cut the lead to just one score.

With that Gronowski interception, that ends a streak of 70 consecutive scores on trips to the red zone for the Jacks, a streak that dates to last season.

With momentum slowly changing, SIU finally found their spark on offense. After a couple of big plays including a roughing-the-passer penalty, quarterback Nic Baker connected on a 24-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver D’Ante’ Cox.

The Jackrabbits were penalized 13 times in the game for 125 yards which was a big reason why SIU was able to stay in the ballgame until the very end.

“We need to clean up some of the penalties,” coach Rogers said. “Some of these penalties I’ve never even heard of before, so we’ll get better, we’ll keep working at it. I feel like the only thing stopping us is ourselves right now.”

Up by seven, SDSU needed to find a way to put some more points on the board to halt any comeback from the Salukis.

With a little over 12 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Jackrabbit offense executed a much-needed, long, methodical drive that took up over nine minutes of the game clock.

“We just kept saying ‘burn the clock, burn the clock’,” said coach Rogers on the long drive. “We were able to do that, and a lot of that has to do with the offensive line, ability to maintain blocking upfront on the passes that we were taking and also just staying on blocks upfront in the run game.”

And when they needed him most, Hunter Dustman made an excellent comeback after the first-half missed field goal and drilled a 44-yarder to give the Jacks a 10-point lead with under three minutes to go.

“Yeah, he was clutch, he was really clutch, not only on the field goal but after we’re offsides on a kickoff, he kicks the ball over the kid’s head,” Coach Rogers said. “Huge play right there, ’cause that’s good field position for them by our lack of execution.”

The Salukis would drive down the field and settle for a field goal but would kick the ensuing onside out-of-bounds, giving the Jackrabbits the 17-10 victory.

It wasn’t the flashiest win but nonetheless, the Jacks held off the No. 12 team in the country, improving to 4-0 in MVFC play, and 7-0 overall.

Offensively, Gronowski finished 15-21 passing, 161 yards, with one touchdown and an interception.

In the backfield, senior tailback Isaiah Davis carried the load with 91 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, while Amar Johnson added another 67 yards on 10 carries.

In the receiving game, Jadon Janke led the team in catches with six for 49 yards, while Griffin Wilde had two catches for 61 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Zach Heins also caught two passes for 23 yards.

The Jackrabbit defense once again dominated throughout the whole game.

The defense finished with one interception, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, four sacks, and eight tackles for loss.

“I think the defense stayed consistent, no matter what happened we responded,” coach Jimmy Rogers said. “And because of that they[SIU] scored ten points, and it’s going to be hard to beat us if we can hold a team to ten points.”

Individually, linebacker Jason Freeman led the team in tackles with 10, adding 1.5 tackles-for-loss, and a 0.5 sack. Cale Reader added another nine tackles, including one tackle-for-loss and a forced fumble.

Defensive end Quinton Hicks had a forced fumble on a sack, with Ryan Van Marel recovering the loose football. Beanum recorded his first interception of the season for the Jacks as well.

For SIU, quarterback Baker finished 20-24 passing for 225 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. He also led the Salukis in rushing yards with 31 on 15 carries.

D’Ante’ Cox was the leading receiver for SIU, catching seven passes for 88 yards and a touchdown.

South Dakota State is now tied for the eighth-longest win streak in FCS history with 21 consecutive victories.

Up next

The Jackrabbits will be on the road again next week, taking on the South Dakota Coyotes in The DakotaDome, kickoff on Oct. 28 is set for 1 p.m.

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