Jackrabbits top rival Coyotes on the road

VERMILLION — Agony and ecstasy in a matter of two plays.

Thankfully for SDSU, the good feeling was the one that stuck. Winston Wright’s 80-yard interception return for a touchdown with 2:36 remaining allowed the Jackrabbits to pull away for a 27-12 win over rival USD Saturday.

The win is the Jacks’ third in a row and it keeps their playoff hopes alive heading to Youngstown State next weekend for the regular season finale. SDSU will need a win against the Penguins to reach the eight-win mark needed for the FCS playoffs.

R.C. Kilgore’s sack of USD quarterback Kevin Earl with 3:04 left on third down appeared snuff out the Coyotes’ final chances at the SDSU 30. But as the Jackrabbits attempted to run out the rest of the clock, Zach Zenner fumbled and Devin Taverna recovered to give the Coyotes new life with 2:53 remaining. But on the next play, Earl’s pass near the sideline was intercepted by the senior Wright, who weaved across the field and sealed SDSU’s first DakotaDome win since 2003.

“Whether we’re up or down, I have no doubt in our team that we’re going to win the game,” Wright said, adding that he was supposed to go down rather than return it for a score.

SDSU allowed 325 yards in the pass game but held the Coyotes to just 59 yards rushing on 25 carries. USD coach Joe Glenn attributed the SDSU win to the ability for the Jacks to run the ball and stop the run.

“I love it when everyone is against you. It brings out the peak performance. “It feels good to own the state for one more year,” Kilgore said.

The Jackrabbits offense managed to go 8-for-13 on third downs in the game and made use of 137 yards rushing from Zenner and two touchdowns from receiver Jason Schneider to pick up the win.

SDSU had a chance to make it a two score game late, with a 39-yard field goal try by Justin Syrovatka with 4:34 left but thanks to the blocked field goal by Dyllon Knox, USD stayed in the game. It was a seven minute drive that came away with no points for SDSU but the Jacks’ defense made the stop with Kilgore’s sack.

“That’s what that game is supposed to be about,” USD coach Joe Glenn said. “We had our chances at times during the game but we just didn’t make the plays they made.”

SDSU’s day got off to a sour start with the Jackrabbits’ quarterback Austin Sumner throwing an interception to linebacker Keyen Lage. But the Jackrabbits would block the ensuing field goal from Justin Syrovatka.

The Jackrabbits got on the board when Sumner found Jason Schneider for a 34-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter to put SDSU ahead 7-0.

USD would answer with a field goal in the second quarter, as Bergner hit from 21 yards out, pulling the Coyotes within four, 7-3 with 12:10 left until half. The Jackrabbits would make good and a short field (47 yards) and score on a 1-yard touchdown run by Zach Zenner, who took a direct snap and followed his lead blockers into the end zone. The Coyotes would drive to the Jacks’ 5 yard line and add a field goal from Bergner before halftime. The 25-yard field goal made it 13-6 at halftime, in favor of the Jackrabbits.

USD opened the second half scoring with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Kevin Earl to Terrance Terry. However, the game was not tied at that point, due to the missed extra point from Bergner, leaving the Jacks with a 13-12 advantage.

Schneider then scored his second touchdown of the game with a 5-yard touchdown reception on a slant route from Sumner. SDSU took a 20-12 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Sumner finished the game with 16-for-23 passing for 175 yards. USD receiver Terrance Terry had 115 yards on nine catches for a touchdown.

“Obviously this was a big game,” Schneider said. “We knew we had to win these last two games and. It was a big game and I’m just glad we came out on top.”