SDSU defense brings the beef with six takeaways in win

Marcus Traxler Editor-in-Chief

Turnovers didn’t quite tell the whole story Saturday night as SDSU took on Southeastern Louisiana but they told enough to make a difference. 

After falling behind 10-0 in the first quarter, the Jackrabbits turned over the Lions six times in the contest and went without a turnover themselves, holding on to beat the non-conference foe, 34-26 in the 47th Beef Bowl at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium. 

“That’s a big emphasis,” said linebacker Dallas Brown. “Whether we’re scouting or we’re in practice, every time someone catches it, we’re poking at it. Our goal this game was five turnovers and we got six so we’re happy with it.”

Brown, making his first career start in place of the injured Charles Elmore, played a key role in the final minutes of the game. With the Jackrabbits ahead 27-19, SLU quarterback Bryan Bennett tried to make the best of a busted play-action pass but threw a pass right to Brown, who ran the ball back 52 yards for a touchdown. On the ensuing kickoff, Xavier Roberson returned the kickoff 82 yards to cut SDSU’s lead back to eight with 2:14 left. 

Southeastern then recovered an onside kick and had a chance to tie the game but Brown intercepted the Oregon transfer Bennett to seal the game with 1:04 remaining at the 50 yard line. 

“There’s a lot of good football teams that don’t win games because you don’t take care of the football,” SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said. “Obviously, that’s huge. To be plus-six in turnovers and have four penalties is important.”

Much like a week ago, the start was less than ideal for the Jackrabbits (3-0). After going three and out on their first drive and a poor punt, Southeastern (2-1) drove 36 yards on five plays to strike first, capped by a one-yard touchdown run from Rasheed Harrell. Offensively, the Jackrabbits looked out of sync, with the nation’s leading rusher Zach Zenner stalled for just six yards on seven carries in the first half. The Jacks saw five of their first seven drives end with punts. 

SDSU’s only score in the first 30 minutes came after the first of their six takeaways. SLU’s Roberson lost the football when Andrew Brown forced the ball loose and T.J. Lally recovered it at the SDSU 10. On the next play, Austin Sumner hit Zenner on a swing pass, which he took 59 yards into Lions territory. Six plays later, Zenner capped the 90-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. SLU would add a field goal before the half to make the score, 13-7, at the break. 

The second half started much like the first for the Lions, who moved down the field for a Bennett touchdown run, putting SLU up 19-7 after a failed two-point conversion. On the next offensive play, Zenner went for a 75-yard touchdown run, cutting the lead to 19-14. 

Later in the quarter, Sumner provided SDSU with the go-ahead touchdown with his feet. After a bobbled snap, Sumner stepped through the pocket and looked down field. With nowhere to throw the ball, he scampered to his right, evading a few tacklers before diving to the pylon and scoring, giving SDSU a 20-19 lead with 20 seconds left in the third quarter. When asked if he was a running threat now — he had eight carries for 35 yards — Sumner gave a resounding “no,” with a laugh.


“That has a chance to happen because he doesn’t panic,” Stiegelmeier said. “His reads are shot. I don’t know if he knew he was going to get in. He’s not a running quarterback but he has the green light to run.”


The quarterback said the Jacks picked up the pace in the second half.


“I think they just executed better than us,” Sumner said of the slow start. “[In the second half], we ran the ball well. We just got it going.”


Zenner finished the game with 128 rushing yards on 17 carries and three touchdowns. Sumner finished the game with 187 yards passing but was sacked four times. 


The turnovers piled up in such a large number for the Lions that SLU head coach Ron Roberts didn’t even realize how many his team had committed until he looked at the stat sheet at the postgame press conference and exclaimed “Oh, my goodness!”


“You can’t do that in a championship game or against a team of this caliber,” he said. “If you’re going to make mistakes, they’re going to capitalize.”


The Jackrabbits are at Nebraska (2-1) Saturday.