Jacksrabbits hold on to playoff hopes in double OT win at home

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Charles Elmore and his fellow teammates celebrate a third down stop in the fourth quarter. 

Teams, not individuals, win athletic competitions but the ability of individuals to make big plays, galvanize their team and ultimately lead their team to victory should not be forgotten. This proved true once again as several Jackrabbit captains and a young cornerback turned in outstanding efforts in their 37-33 double overtime victory over the University of Northern Iowa (4-4, 0-4 MVFC) to improve their record to 5-4, 2-3 MVFC.

“Ultimately I feel that success for this team rises and falls upon leadership,” UNI linebacker Zach Cutkomp said. “As a captain of the team I have to take some of the responsibility.”

The same could have been easily said by a Jackrabbit captain. Both teams fought hard, but in the end, big performances and leadership by several SDSU players ended up tilting the scales in their favor. 

 

Hubert heroic

 

Though the senior wide receiver spent the day in pain, barely able to lift his right arm, and receiving attention from the training staff, Brandon Hubert nevertheless was able to find his way onto the field whenever the Jackrabbits needed a big play through the air. On the field he suppressed his pain and battled through it to lead the Jacks with nine catches for 118 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including the game winner during the second overtime. Hubert is one of four team captains and has moved into a tie with Darren Baartman (1988-1991) for eighth all-time in career receptions for the Jackrabbits with 128. Hubert has also accumulated 1,658 career receiving yards. Forty-two more yards will move him into the top ten in that category as well.

“He got wacked more than once,” head coach John Stiegelmeier said. “But [he] just kept coming back … A couple weeks ago he texted me and said, ‘Hang in there coach. We’re going to get it done.’ And that’s a leader. That’s a mature young man. And then at the end of the game in the locker room when I called him in to break the huddle, he called everybody in, as again, a guy that just understands the power of everybody doing their job. So, he’s a special guy.”

 

Sumner steady

 

Two-time captain and all-time SDSU passing yards leader Austin Sumner led the offense from the quarterback position. Playing with poise in the pocket, Sumner was able to avoid several drive killing sacks and with the exception of his one interception always seemed to know exactly what to do with the football. He completed 22 of his 34 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns. He also carried the ball five times for 12 yards. His longest run of the game came on third and seven in the second overtime when he was pushed out of the pocket and darted downfield, diving into a tackler to gain eight yards and a Jackrabbit first down. On the next play he threw a 14 yard strike to Hubert in the end zone to win the game for the Jacks. After the game he was ready to give credit to his offensive line. 

“Our O-Line just did a heck of a job,” Sumner said. “You win up front and you’re pretty well off.”

 

Zenner delivers again

 

Zach Zenner might have many Jackrabbits fans spoiled by now. He has rushed for eight 100 yard games this year and has 17 in his career. The junior running back turned in another solid performance against Northern Iowa as he rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries. He also caught a pair of passes for 11 yards.

“This is a big win for sure,” Zenner said. “Maybe there’s a chance that we go to the playoffs; maybe there’s not. But right now we just want to go 1-0 this week.”

  

Butler lifts special teams

 

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day came from Je Ryan Butler in the first quarter, when the sophomore cornerback fielded Logan Bieghler’s punt off the bounce on the SDSU 20 yard line and found a lane through which he returned the punt for a touchdown, giving the Jackrabbits the early 7-3 lead.

“The thing that I’m most excited about that is as a coaching staff we didn’t strap him and not let him make that play,” Stiegelmeier said. “So often coaching staffs are so worried about negative things that happen that they don’t let guys just be athletes … The ability of him in the open field, because he’s not a running back, to not dance but simply make one cut and go by the last guy was real big, and that was a huge play in the football game.”

The punt return touchdown was the first for the Jackrabbits since 2009. On defense Butler recorded four tackles, including one tackle for loss.