Yellow and blue all over

Marcus Traxler

Jacks control Indiana St., move to 3-1 on season

In its first conference test of the season, SDSU passed with flying colors.

Leaning on its staples of running the ball with Zach Zenner and the Jacks’ defensive dominance, SDSU picked up its first signature win of the season, topping No. 22 Indiana State in convincing fashion, 24-10, in the Missouri Valley Football Conference opener in Terre Haute, Ind.

“It was the conference opener and we stressed that,” Zenner said. “We knew it was important and that really speaks for itself.”

SDSU (3-1) opened the scoring with a 15-play, 69-yard drive before kicker Justin Syrovatka hit a 37-yard field goal to give the Jacks an early three-point advantage. The Jacks would add to the lead before halftime when Zenner would bust off a 57-yard touchdown run — his fifth of the season — to put the Jackrabbits ahead 10-0. ISU would add a field goal before halftime to cut the margin to 10-3.

The Jackrabbits extended their lead in the third quarter with a 23-yard pass from Austin Sumner to tight end Seth Daughters, moving the Jackrabbits ahead, 17-3.

After an Indiana State touchdown, Zenner delivered a decisive blow one more time in the fourth quarter, breaking free for an 87-yard run to the Indiana State three-yard line. Two plays later, tight end Cam Jones scored from two yards out to give the Jackrabbits a 14-point lead.

The SDSU defense made one final, critical stop in the fourth quarter, shutting down the Sycamores and making it six straight wins against FCS foes, dating back to last year.

Indiana State’s Shakir Bell, who entered the game second in the country in rushing yards, wasn’t as fortunate as Zenner. Bell finished the game with 54 yards on 18 carries. The Jackrabbits dominated ISU in net rushing yards, 297-23.

“We kept getting after him,” defensive end Marshall Peugh said. “We kept hitting them hard, and we didn’t slow down.”

Peugh had two of the Jacks’ six sacks.

“I wouldn’t say if we played them 10 times, that we’re going to hold [Bell] to 54 net yards but our guys rose up today, and that’s all that matters for us,” SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said.

ISU head coach Trent Miles said the game was a wake-up call for his team and that the SDSU game was an indication of the “big boy football” being played in the conference.

“They came in and established what they wanted to, and they did it well,” Miles said. “We gave a couple of long runs, and they were able to score off those long runs, and that was the difference in the game … When your longest run by your best back is five yards, it’s going to be a long day.”

On a windy day in the Wabash Valley of Indiana, Sumner struggled to find success. He finished the game 6 of 19 for 51 yards. But the rest of the team found plenty of success.

“You always have the faith that you can get the job done, but when you win and you see what the trust in your teammates can do, your trust just builds,” Zenner said.

“I think it can propel you into playing better,” Stiegelmeier said. “My nature is to say, ‘Don’t relax, men.’ I don’t think we would at an early stage but we really hyped up playing each play like it’s your last and getting a win in the Missouri Valley and we got that and we need to focus on Missouri State.”

When an Indianapolis sportswriter asked Zenner if he thought an FCS player should have a chance for the Heisman Trophy — and Zenner is eligible if he stays on his astronomical pace — he shrugged off the question like an opposing tackler with his eyes on a bigger prize.

“Really, I don’t even know what to say about that,” Zenner said. “I’m just glad we won today. “The numbers might be something cool to look back on but right now, winning is the most important thing.”