Headed to semis: Jacks take down Kennesaw State Owls

Andrew Holtan, Sports Reporter

Taryn Christion didn’t have the best game of his career, but when South Dakota State needed him to step up, he did.

The senior quarterback from Sioux Falls led the Jackrabbits to a 27-17 victory over the Kennesaw State Owls in the FCS Playoffs quarterfinal in Kennesaw, Georgia.

“I credit our seniors and the leaders of our football team,” said head coach John Stiegelmeier.

SDSU was in complete control of the game with a 20-3 lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Owls backup quarterback, Daniel David, led Kennesaw State on back-to-back touchdown drives to cut the lead to 20-17 with 6:42 remaining in the game.

With just over five minutes left the Jacks faced a third down and 12 at their own 33 yard-line and Christion found wide receiver Cade Johnson for a 33-yard reception. Christion put the game on ice 2:22 left when he ran for a 15-yard touchdown on a third down and seven.

[Christion] is one of the best players, if not the best player in South Dakota State history

— Head coach John Stiegelmeier

It rained the entire game so Christion was limited throwing the ball, but he finished with 147 yards passing, 37 yards rushing and two total touchdowns.

“[Christion] is one of the best players, if not the best player in South Dakota State history,” Stiegelmeier said.

The Jacks played a bend, don’t break style of defense Saturday. They gave up 418 total yards of offense but held the Owls to 17 points. They forced two turnovers on the day, recovering a fumble and getting an interception.

“I thought we did fairly well defending the triple-option,” Stiegelmeier said. “… I was happy with what we did. I thought our guys knew exactly what to do.”

Freshman running back Pierre Strong, Jr. had 122 yards rushing and one touchdown. It was the fourth time this season he has gone over 100 yards. SDSU had 161 yards rushing and Christion credited the Jacks success on the ground to the offensive line.

“The 605 Hogs do all the work,” Strong said. “It’s tough to stop them when they get going.”

David entered the game for the Owls midway through the second quarter after starting quarterback, Chandler Burks, left the game with a shoulder injury. David had 94 yards passing, 65 yards rushing and two total touchdowns.

SDSU will travel to Fargo for the second time this season to play the North Dakota State Bison in the FCS Playoffs semifinal. The Jacks fell 21-17 on Sept. 29 and have lost the previous three matchups between the teams in the Playoffs.

“We’re tremendously excited,” Stigelmeier said. “We love the rivalry. We haven’t gotten them in the playoffs yet. We’ve been close. So we’re going to work hard this week and give it our best shot. It’s one of the best rivalries in college football.”

The date and start time of the game will be announced either Saturday night or Sunday morning. The game will either be played at 7 p.m. on Dec. 14 or 2 p.m. on Dec. 15.