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

Back 2 Frisco

South Dakota State will head down to Frisco, Texas to play in the National Championship for the second year in a row
Dave Eggen/Inertia
BROOKINGS, SD – DECEMBER 15: Zach Heins #87 of the South Dakota State Jackrabbits celebrates a touchdown against the Albany Great Danes at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings, SD.


The Great Danes could do nothing against the No. 1 ranked defense in the nation all game, resulting in a 59-0 blowout in the FCS Semifinals. 

To add, the Jackrabbits scored on five of their six first-half drives, giving them a 28-point lead at halftime. 

Jason Freeman led this dominant defensive performance for the Jacks with nine total tackles, an assisted tackle for loss and a fumble recovery touchdown. Adam Bock and Isaiah Stalbird both had seven stops each with Stalbird forcing a fumble. Quinton Hicks had 1.5 of State’s two sacks a loss of seven yards, leading the team in tackles for loss as well. 

Weather was not a factor for Mark Gronowski this week as he threw for 265 yards on 15 completions and three touchdowns. 

On the first drive of the game, South Dakota State moved the ball down 74 yards and with a pass from Gronowski to tight end Zach Heins, the Jackrabbits would hit the board first from six yards out. 

This season, the Jackrabbits have scored on 11 of their 14 first drives (eight touchdowns and three field goals). 

Sophomore quarterback Reese Poffenbarger took the field and began moving down the field. Tucker Large quickly put a stop to it after bringing in SDSU’s first interception of the night. Poffenbarger completed 30 of his 44 throws for 232 yards while amounting to 29 on the ground, the most for the Great Danes. 

Curtsy of a 40-yard bomb from Gronowski to Jadon Janke, South Dakota State added another seven when senior tailback Isaiah Davis scored his first rushing touchdown of the night from three yards out. Davis finished the game with 107 yards and two scores. The Missouri native has rushed for over 100 yards in the postseason seven times in a row. 

A punt from UAlbany gave South Dakota State another opportunity to add to their and once again, the Jacks scored on another Davis run. Just two yards away, Davis put his shoulder down and put a UAlbany defender in the turf as he crossed the plain. 

The Great Danes punted on their next drive to Large back deep. The safety let the ball skip before picking it up and showing his explosiveness as he moved passed the UAlbany special teams unit for a 79-yard punt return touchdown. The sophomore finished with one tackle and an interception which he returned for 12 yards. 

“I was debating mid-play, but [it] kinda just bounced right to me, it had a good bounce,” said Large after the game. “I saw the long snapper in front of me and I thought I could make him miss and just followed some blocks and went down the sideline and ended up scoring.” 

To put the Jackrabbits up 35-0 at the half, Gronowski found Jadon Janke deep in the endzone for a 36-yard touchdown reception, his only of the game. Janke finished with 151 yards on six catches. 

UAlbany started the second half with the ball and in just two plays, the Jackrabbits scored another touchdown. A monster hit from Stalbird popped the ball out of the hands of Woodell. Linebacker Jason Freeman scooped up the pigskin and ran it back for a score. 

The Great Danes found themselves in the red zone for the first time in the third quarter. Faced with a 4th and 7 at the Jackrabbit 17-yard line, UAlbany tried to convert the fourth down instead of going for a field goal. The drive ended with an incomplete from Poffenbarger trying to find a target in the endzone. 

After a punt from SDSU, the Great Danes were back in SDSU territory facing another fourth down, this time on the 23-yard line. Similar to their last drive, UAlbany threw another incomplete, resulting in a turnover on downs. 

The Jackrabbits tacked on another score after a 77-yard drive in seven plays thanks to a 25-yard pass from Gronowski to Heins. the senior completed the night with four catches for 50 yards and two touchdowns. 

With under 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the Rabbit Reserves took the field up 49 points. Backup quarterback Chase Mason found freshman Griffin Wilde for a 76-yard touchdown. The freshman also caught a pass earlier in the game for nine yards. 

“We got great players,” said head coach Jimmy Rogers. “It didn’t matter at the end who was in the game, we were going to execute. It was our game to win.” 

Hunter Dustman tallied the final points of the game with a 27-yard field goal to bring the score to 59-0. 

UAlbany would not score through the entirety of the game. 

South Dakota State will play for the National Championship in Frisco, Texas Sunday, Jan. 7 2024 at Toyota Stadium with a kickoff time set for 1 p.m. 

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About the Contributor
Marshall Minihan, Sports Editor
Sports Editor Marshall Minihan is a junior at South Dakota State University and is from Canton, South Dakota. He majors in journalism and minors in communication studies and recreation administration.

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