Hobo Day slips away

 

 After winning on a late drive in 2011 against Southern Illinois, the Jackrabbits couldn’t replicate that success Saturday against the Salukis. 

The Jackrabbits allowed 17 unanswered points in the second half and a late rally wasn’t enough to allow SDSU to win on Hobo Day Saturday, as Southern Illinois topped SDSU, 27-24 in front of 11,250 fans in Brookings. 

Down 7-0 early, SDSU rallied with a 21-play, 85 yard drive, capped by a one-yard touchdown run by Zach Zenner. The nearly 11 minute drive included seven third down conversions, making it one of the most impressive SDSU scoring marches in recent history. 

After both teams traded field goals in the middle of the second quarter, the Jackrabbits looked like they would be headed to halftime tied or maybe even trailing, as SIU drove the field to the SDSU 12. There, SIU quarterback Kory Faulker threw an out pattern that was jumped by Jackrabbit linebacker Charles Elmore, who ran it back 89 yards for a touchdown, putting SDSU ahead 17-10 at the break. 

But SIU coach Dale Lennon said the team rallied around the play and the Salukis took advantage early in the third quarter. On Faulkner’s next pass, the third play of the half, he found John Lantz for a 59 yard touchdown pass to tie the game. A field goal and another Faulkner touchdown run — his second of the game — gave SIU a 27-17 lead with 7:15 to play. 

In contrast, SDSU turned the ball over twice in the second half on fumbles by Zach Zenner and Cam Jones. And had a field goal from the reliable Justin Syrovatka blocked in the third quarter from 38 yards out.

After Zenner’s fumble with 6:18 left in the game, the SDSU defense picked up the struggling offense. Elmore forced a fumble with 5:30 left that R.C. Kilgore was able to fall on at midfield. Five plays later, SDSU scored with another Zenner touchdown run, with 4:04 remaining. The Salukis were forced to punt and the Jackrabbits appeared to be on a scoring drive reminiscent of the long drive SDSU used to defeat SIU in 2012, 16-12. But the drive would stall on 4th and 2 at the SIU 40, after a pass to Trevor Wesley from Sumner fell incomplete, with a defender draped over 

“We need to get our heads up,” SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said. “We’ve lost to three really good football teams. I’m disappointed that we made some errors that made it tougher on us today.”

Zenner finished the game with 31 carries and 112 rushing yards to go with his two rushing scores. Sumner was 23-for-37 passing for 276 yards for the Jackrabbits, with Jones leading the team with 70 yards receiving. Andrew Brown and Kilgore each finished with nine tackles. 

After winning the first three games of the season, the Jackrabbits are back to an even 3-3 after losses to Nebraska, North Dakota State and Southern Illinois. They travel to Western Illinois next week, even though their conference title hopes are “dead,” according to Stiegelmeier.

“We just gotta keep pushing,” Elmore said. “We just have to play our heart out and we have to emphasize the basics. We just have to be there mentally. We believe in each other.”