Jackrabbits rally past Panthers

Justin Harned Sports Editor

The Jackrabbits treated their fans with some extra football last Saturday, as Austin Sumner hooked up with Brandon Hubert for a 14-yard touchdown pass in the second overtime to push No. 24 ranked SDSU past No. 17 ranked University of Northern Iowa.

Hubert played the role of a hero, squeezing SDSU past the Panthers 37-34 in double overtime. The victory improves the Jacks overall record to 5-4 overall, (2-3 conference) and most importantly keeping their playoff hopes alive. UNI drops to 4-4 overall, (0-4 conference). Hubert was named Missouri Valley Football Conference Player of the Week for his contributions in the Jacks’ 37-34 victory over UNI.

“The fact that we were able to come back after some disappointing performances, especially last week’s, I think says a ton about the fabric and foundation of our guys and coaching staff,” head coach John Stiegelmeier said. “It’s amazing to me in our profession what one play does, it’s almost unfair. But we made the play and they didn’t I’m proud of our guys.”

All seemed to be lost in the in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter when Sumner tried to hit a pass over the middle of the field that found the chest of UNI defender, Ray Mitchell. The Panthers seemed to have done everything up to that point to put the Jacks away, all that stood between UNI and the win was a 30-yard field goal attempt. Tyler Sievertson had previously hit a 40 and 41-yard field goals earlier in the contest. The snap was a bit high and Sievertson pushed the ball right to send the game into overtime.

“The only thing I could do was just believe in our defense and I did,” Sumner said. “Thankfully he missed it, he gave me another shot, gave the team another shot … Our defense stuck with it.”

The two teams traded field goals in overtime, Justin Syrovatka with a 26-yard field goal and Sievertson with a 25 yarder. Sumner hit Jason Schneider for eight yards on a second and 15 and followed that up with a scramble for eight yards picking up the first down. The rest was history when Sumner found Hubert on the very next play on a 14-yard touchdown pass in the flats, wide open. Hubert finished the day with a season high of nine receptions for 118 yards and two touchdowns.

Perhaps one of the biggest plays of the day came from Je Ryan Butler on a bouncing punt return that the sophomore from Tempe, Ariz. took to the house on an 80-yard touchdown punt return. The special teams unit has struggled this season to make a big impact in games, as the return was SDSU’s first punt return at home since 2007. The return sparked the Jacks, giving them an early 7-3 lead in the first quarter.

“It was definitely a big momentum play, it was pretty wind out there, short punt, I just saw it rolling, picked it up saw an opportunity to make a play,” Butler said. 

Schneider caught eight passes for 76 yards and one touchdown in the Jackrabbits victory.

Zach Zenner finished the day with 31 carries for 117 yards and one touchdown.

Sumner went 22-34 for 239 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

“Our O-line did a heck of a job today,” Sumner said. “We played some other teams in the past and struggled a bit, but they did a heck of a job today.”

With a bye week to re-evaluate and get healthy, the playoffs still remain a possibility for the Jackrabbits as they avoid receiving their fifth loss.

“This is a big win for sure,” Zenner said. “Right now, we just want to go 1-0 each week, win the rest of these games and then we’ll worry about what happens after that.”

SDSU will have a bye week, then they spring back into action Nov. 9 against Indiana State. Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m. at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium.