Win ugly, win pretty, it all counts the same.
With an offense that failed to find any sort of consistency, the Jackrabbits defense delivered again and turned the Missouri State Bears over five times as No. 25 SDSU won the game, 17-7 in front of 14,186 fans during the Beef Bowl Sept. 29.
“It was definitely a plus for us,” said SDSU linebacker Ross Shafrath, who led the defense with two interceptions, 12 total tackles and was named Beef Bowl Most Outstanding Player.
As he’s been prone to do, Zach Zenner broke off another signature long run in the second quarter, going 88 yards to put SDSU on the board, 7-0. The Jacks (4-1) took a 10-0 advantage when Justin Syrovatka knocked down a 23-yard field goal with 2:34 left until halftime.
SDSU let off the gas pedal at the end of the half, allowing the Bears to cover 62 yards in 67 seconds, capped by Ashton Glaser’s 1-yard touchdown run, trimming the Jacks’ first half lead to three points.
The defining moments came in the fourth quarter when Missouri State cornerback Sybhrian Berry made a spectacular one-handed grab to intercept Austin Sumner for the third time in the game. On the ensuing play, Chris Tracy stepped in front of a Glaser pass and put SDSU’s offense back on the field. Four plays later, Sumner found Brandon Hubert on a short slant route in the middle of the field to put SDSU ahead by 10, 17-7.
“I think you can walk off the field and have an awkward feeling in your stomach but the bottom line is the Jacks won, and that’s our goal, find a way to win,” SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier said.
Zenner finished the game with 182 yards on 30 carries, a season-low for Zenner, who now has 1,077 yards in five games played. The mark is the most for Missouri Valley Football Conference running back through five games and as a team SDSU has already topped its 2011 rushing total.
“It feels like a win and at the end of the day, the Jackrabbits won. We know we can do a lot better and we feel like we beat ourselves on a lot of plays. Today it was turnovers,” Zenner said.
Both teams had double-digit penalties and numerous post-play penalties but the Jackrabbits defense prevailed when it counted, keeping the opposition out of the end zone more than once for the third straight game.
“Two good defenses and I think that stood out more than anything. When we threw the ball down field, we had trouble and I think it was the same way for them,” Bears head coach Terry Allen said, as the Bears dropped to 0-5 for 2012.
Again, the Jackrabbits struggled to throw the ball with much effectiveness as quarterback Austin Sumner finished the game 17 of 27 for 192 yards and three interceptions, running his season total to nine picks on the year.
The Jackrabbits, who have moved up to No. 23 in this week’s media poll, take their strong start into the off week before returning to Coughlin-Alumni Stadium Oct. 13 to play Western Illinois. Nobody in the Football Championship Subdivision has won at least four games with fewer points scored than the 101 points scored by SDSU.
“It’s a good feeling to go into the bye week 4-1,” Zenner said. “We haven’t played our best football so far and we’re going to work to improve on what we can.”