Jackrabbits move into first with dominating win


The Jackrabbits played at the top of their game Saturday and now they’re at the top of the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

SDSU opened the game with 100 yard kickoff return by Tyrel Kool for a score, Zach Zenner scored two touchdowns and the Jacks’ defense remained as stout as ever, leading to a convincing win Saturday. The Jacks, now 5-1 and 3-0 in the MVFC, defeated Western Illinois, 31-10, in front of 10,727 fans at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium.

With Kool’s opening touchdown — the first kickoff return for a score by the Jacks since 2007 — SDSU was sparked to an early lead as the senior was nearly untouched to the endzone.

WIU would rally with an interception of SDSU’s Austin Sumner by Martinez Davis, who took the ball 28 yards to tie the game with 10:29 left in the opening frame.

Zenner would put SDSU back in front on the first play of the second quarter, weaving 46 yards to the end zone and SDSU led at halftime, 14-10 after Pat Smith’s 23 yard field goal with seven minutes left in the half.

Skyler Luxa dashed any hopes of the Leathernecks (3-3) making a second half surge, intercepting WIU quarterback Wil Lunt on the opening drive of the second half. Luxa ran 23 yards for a touchdown and SDSU took an 11-point lead, 21-10.

Justin Syrovatka’s 29-yard field goal put SDSU ahead 24-10 on the first play of the fourth quarter and Zenner delivered the dagger with just under 10 minutes to go in the game, when he broke off a 60 yard run — his fourth touchdown of at least 60 yards in length this season.

“We’re 1-0 [this week] and that’s all that matters,” SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier said, repeating the phrase he’s referenced plenty already this season. “Zenner came through and we did make some plays.”

Zenner added to his remarkable season atop the NCAA leaderboard with 171 yards on 19 carries. The Jacks defense held the Leathernecks to 4-of-17 on third down conversion attempts and held WIU to 60 rushing yards.

With Indiana State knocking top-ranked North Dakota State from its perch at the top of the conference earlier in the day, SDSU is alone in first place.

“There’s only one team in the league without a loss and that’s South Dakota State and they proved why tonight,” WIU head coach Mark Hendrickson said.

As their star notes, there’s a lot of season ahead, starting next week at 1-5 Northern Iowa. The Jackrabbits have not defeated UNI in Cedar Falls since moving to Division I.

“It’s taken a lot of hard work to get there and it’s taken a lot of hard work to stay there but that’s what we plan on doing,” Zenner said.