Jacks race past Coyotes


Senior running back Zach Zenner scores the first touchdown of the game.

SDSU football closed out their regular season with a dominating 37-14 victory over USD in the South Dakota Showdown to put themselves in good position for a third straight FCS Playoff berth.

From the start, the Jackrabbits seized control of the game. Brady Mengarelli returned the opening kickoff 46 yards to the USD 49 from where the Jacks marched into the end zone in five plays, scoring on a 10-yard Zach Zenner touchdown run.

Their next drive featured more of the same as Austin Sumner found Jason Schneider for a 28-yard touchdown pass to put the Jacks up two scores.

An 18-yard touchdown pass to from Sumner to Wieneke would further lengthen the lead with the game still in the first quarter.

“I could stand up and show you – there’s nothing on me,” Sumner said in the postgame press conference. “I didn’t get touched today and that’s a great feeling as a quarterback.”

Between quarters SDSU would add to the day by breaking the world record for the largest pillow fight, an event sponsored by Super 8 and headlined by Joey Fatone.

A minute into the second quarter, Justin Syrovatka made it 24-0 with his first of three field goals. When Sumner found Zenner wide open on a swing pass, the Jacks added another touchdown, taking a 31-0 lead into the half.

USD had their chances in the second quarter, but a controversial call on a missed field goal, a goal line stand by the Jacks and Je Ryan Butler’s interception in the end zone derailed potential scoring drives.

“When they get down there we don’t really panic,” Butler said. “I think some teams would be like ‘aww they’re on the two-yard line with two downs to get the touchdown.’ We don’t look at it look that. We just focus on doing our job. … That’s all you can do is just do your job.”

With the game already out of reach, the Jacks tacked on field goals in the third and fourth quarters to go up 37 points, before surrendering 14 unanswered to the Coyotes as SDSU’s reserves finished the game.

Zenner left the game in the third quarter with 77 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries and two receptions for 53 yards and a touchdown.

“We went to Zach and said ‘you’re a senior, this is where we’re at, what do you want to do?’ And he said give Brady the reps and that is a picture of the type of young man he is,” said head coach John Stiegelmeier. “Could that cost him something? It doesn’t matter, and that is proof the type of young man he is, the team player he is. We’re better because of that, because he’s a great player and his picture of how to be part of the team.”

Sumner stayed on into the early minutes of the fourth quarter before giving way to Zach Lujan. Sumner finished the day with 395 yards and three touchdowns as he went 16-28 passing the ball. His 395 yards rank second all-time in SDSU history for passing yards in a game.

“Hopefully a playoff game, hopefully in Coughlin-Alumni Stadium, and hopefully 410 [yards are next for Sumner],” Stiegelmeier said. “You start with the fat guys. I don’t think he got sacked today. … He’s got some special receivers, unfortunately Jason went out today. Again he’s a good player, so I guess the sky’s the limit.”

Schneider and Wieneke both started hot for the Jacks, but Schneider ended up leaving the game banged up while Wieneke stayed on to finish with 172 yards and a touchdown on six receptions. Schneider caught four passes for 85 yards and a touchdown.

With the win, SDSU improves to 8-4 overall and 5-3 in the MVFC. Coming into the game as the No. 15 team in the Coaches Poll and seeing several other teams competing for playoff spots lose, the Jackrabbits appear to have a good shot at finding themselves in the field when it is announced Sunday, Nov. 23 at 10 a.m. CT.

“We play in the best league in America, bar none. It isn’t even close by rankings,” Stiegelmeier said about why the Jacks should be in the field. “We were without one of our best players for seven games. We’re winning at the end. We beat Northern Iowa, who may be playing the best football right now, on the road.”

As for Sumner, he said that he believes the Jacks will be one of the teams announced as part of the playoff field.