Too much to handle: Jayhawks pull away from Jacks in opening loss


SDSU pulled out all the stops to try to beat Kansas, including putting their previously injured quarterback into the game to try to turn the game around.

It didn’t happen.

Even with a few exciting stretches, the Jackrabbits didn’t have enough in the end to pull the upset, dropping a 31-17 decision at the hands of the Jayhawks in Lawrence, Kan., on Saturday.

After starting redshirt freshman Eric Kline, SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier made the move to bring in Austin Sumner in the third quarter. Sumner, who was not in line to play with a hand injury, came into the game and engineered two scoring drives but also threw four interceptions, killing SDSU’s chances.

“I told (Austin) he wasn’t going to play,” Stiegelmeier said. “Had we made more plays than a 99-yard run in the first half, I don’t think he would have played, but we weren’t making those plays; we felt we needed a shot and he said he was ready.”

SDSU’s biggest play came early in the game and delivered a monster boost.

Pinned on their own one-yard line, the Jacks went to Zach Zenner on a simple run play up the middle and Zenner quickly broke the run to the secondary. With nobody to stop him, Zenner recorded the longest run in Jackrabbit football history, scoring from 99 yards and giving the Jackrabbits a 7-0 lead with 8:33 left in the first quarter. The play silenced a crowd of 46,601 at Memorial Stadium, and left a decent contingent of Jacks fans cheering.

“We have been working on a lot of the same running plays for the past few weeks and we thought that one would maybe hit big and it did,” Zenner said.

KU would answer before the quarter ended, capitalizing on a short field off a blocked punt — one of two in the game — with a Tony Pierson three-yard touchdown run. The Jayhawks then would take the lead before halftime when Ron Doherty hit a 22-yard field goal for a 10-7 score.

SDSU accomplished little offensively after the big run, with a fumble and five stalled drives before halftime, but only down three, the Jacks were still in the ball game.

With the ball to start the second half, Trevor Tiefenthaler brought the ball back to the SDSU 45, and the Jackrabbits marched the ball to the Jayhawk 30 yard-line, where Kline and the Jacks faced a 4th and 4 and the game changed course.

The Jacks took a timeout to mull over the play, returned to the field, took a false start penalty to make the play 4th and 9 and then burned another timeout before Kline’s short pass to Zenner fell incomplete. Kansas took possession, covered 65 yards in 83 seconds and scored on a 47-yard touchdown run by Pierson.

“We really had an opportunity, and we didn’t take advantage of it,” Kline said. “We kind of shot ourselves in the foot there, and we didn’t take advantage of the opportunity.”

Feeling the game sliding, Stiegelmeier made the move for Sumner. His first pass was deflected and intercepted near midfield. The Jayhawks scored again, this time on a two-yard touchdown pass from Dayne Crist to Mike Ragone, putting KU up 17 points, 24-7.

Sumner would lead SDSU on a key drive to get them back into the game, an 80-yard drive, marked by a 25-yard pass over the middle to Brandon Hubert and then 22 yards down the middle two plays later to Tyrel Kool for the score, cutting the lead to 10 with 12:52 to go.

After two KU three-and-outs, Sumner would hit Hubert for a 42-yard completion and the Jacks would convert a 25-yard Justin Syrovatka field goal. Despite their troubles, SDSU was within seven points with 8:39 left; but the hope would soon be extinguished after an eight-play, 75 yard drive for the Jayhawks resulted in a three-yard touchdown run by Taylor Cox, setting the final score at 31-17

In the final 5:31, Sumner would throw three of his four interceptions with the Jackrabbits pressing to get back into the game.

“I really felt that we had played some sloppy football at times and played ourselves back into the game, but we just failed to keep playing it,” Stiegelmeier said. “As we mature as a football program, I expect we will make those plays and we will get better. I’m proud of our players in a ton of ways. I thought they walked onto the field and felt they could win.”

Zenner finished the game with 183 yards on 23 carries. SDSU racked up 411 yards of total offense, nearly matching KU’s 432 and picking up 207 rushing yards total, an important sign after last year’s rushing woes.

Sumner finished the game 14-for-31 with 175 yards passing, one touchdown and four interceptions. Kool had eight catches for 76 yards; Hubert had four catches and 83 yards. The Jackrabbits play at Southeastern Louisiana this week, who lost 62-10 to Missouri in its season opener.