GRAND FORKS, N.D. – It’s clear to say that Zach Zenner is the workhorse of the offense and he simply kept the Jackrabbits in the win column.
Although the Jacks made good strides in all phases of the game, Zenner provided the pressure the Jacks needed offensively. For the second time of his career he has tied his own mark set against Eastern Illinois last season of 295 rushing yards in a game. Austin Sumner handed Zenner the rock for a career high of 37 times on Saturday as the Jackrabbits held on to win 35-28 on the road against UND. Zenner scored three rushing touchdowns as well as an impressive 23-yard touchdown catch-and-run. No running back would be great without a solid offensive line, Zenner knows who to give the credit too. But he is a very patient runner behind a good offensive line and that is potent combination for any defense.
“The offensive line was doing a great job all night, picking up blocks five yards past the line of scrimmage,” Zenner said. “Whenever you shift as an offense trying to get the defense out of position as an offense you always know where they’re going but they always have to react, so the goal is just to get them uncomfortable.”
SDSU will continue to feed Zenner the ball to keep pressure on opposing defenses lightening the load for Sumner and the wide receivers. Head coach John Stiegelmeier believes his star running back was on the verge of too many carries. Any time a running back can average 8.0 yards-per-carry average is quite amazing for any team.
“I think Zach Zenner is a heck of a football player,” Stiegelmeier said. “He played better against a much better football team.”
Passing game does enough
It was a solid game for Sumner and his receiving corps on Saturday. Sumner went 10-21 157 yards and two touchdowns. He hit Jason Schneider for a 37-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter. Sumner’s second touchdown came from a swing pass to Zenner who scampered 23 yards for the touchdown. Sumner served as more of a game manager in week two as the Jackrabbits owned the clock controlling the ball for over 35 minutes of the game. SDSU dominated the first half of the game as Sumner completed 8-12 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns. With the game in control, UND clearly gained momentum bearing down on SDSU.
No turnovers for Jacks
One of the positives in the game for SDSU would have to be the ball security.
“I am excited about that,” Stiegelmeier said. “The team that wins a championship in whatever conference national or whatever doesn’t make errors like we made last week. We haven’t turned the ball over and those are the things that kill you late in football games.”
The only Jackrabbit miscue came on a muffed punt by returner Trevor Wesley which was recovered by Jesse Bobbit. The fact that SDSU took care of the football is the reason why they were capable of hanging on at the end.
“Football is about momentum which they had at the end, there’s making a play when your number is called,” Stiegelmeier said. “Jesse Bobbit may have had the biggest play of the football game, we fumbled the ball on the punt and he recovers it.”
Defining the defense
Big plays are made when a team needs it the most. The defense offered up as a great compliment to Zenner and the offense. SDSU defensive back Jimmie Forsythe delivered a timely interception off UND quarterback Joe Mollberg. Linebacker T.J. Lally tipped Mollberg’s pass over the middle where Forsythe snatched it.
“We were backed up, Lally did his job and tipped it up,” Forsythe said. “I just came in and picked it off, it really should be his interception but, hats off to him.”
While UND had stolen back the momentum from the Jacks, Forsythe quickly neutralized UND in three plays to end any hopes of a comeback. The Jacks let up going into the third quarter allowing Mollberg to get hot.
“We didn’t play as well as we were before,” Forsythe said. “We fought back and showed some resiliency there at the end.”
A testament to the defensive line, UND rushed for just 11 times the entire game for 42 yards. Defensive back Andrew Brown played exceptionally well stepping up and tallying up two tackles for a loss and four unassisted tackles. SDSU held UND’s starting quarterback Ryan Bartels in check for most of the game until Mollberg entered the game with 6:18 left in the third quarter to spark UND to score 21 points only to throw his first pick to Forsythe to end their hopes of a comeback.