Jacks defense wins close, windy spring game

Marcus Traxler

For the fifth year in a row, SDSU’s defensive unit showed off its winning ways in the annual spring game, causing three interceptions and five sacks to beat the offense, 42-32, on a windy Saturday afternoon.

Those conditions prevented too many big plays for the Jackrabbits offense, something that SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said he was not too worried about.

“You’re always going to win [the spring game] with a great defense. It’s hard to measure great defense when you’re playing against yourself and you want to be great on offense. Not a lot of long drives, no big plays, those really are positives when you look at it as a football program,” he said.

The Jackrabbits scored on their opening possession using a short field to score in six plays from 30 yards. SDSU set up first and goal but couldn’t score on the first three downs, converting when starting quarterback Austin Sumner launched a lob to the corner of the end zone where Jason Schneider hauled in the one-yard pass for the touchdown.

From there, the defense carried the way with R.C. Kilgore intercepting a pass from Eric Kline off a deflection for the day’s first turnover, worth six points with the adjusted scoring in the spring game. David Godley stole a Sumner pass from the arms of receiver Aaron Rollin on the first half’s final play. Junior college-transfer Austin Scott-Knowlton intercepted third-string quarterback Tyler Finnes in the second half. The front seven also picked up four sacks in the second half to keep the offense off balance and Bo Helm led the squad with seven tackles.

Nevertheless, it was a success in the first half for the offense, a unit that only trailed by two at halftime, 18-16 — a far cry from the year prior when the defense notched a 50-point win.

“I thought the first half was better. I thought there was some sloppy play in the second half and just turnovers and bobbling the ball. There’s a tendency to fall off as the game goes along and I think that’s what happened today,” Stiegelmeier said.

The offense picked up their second touchdown of the game when redshirt freshman Reggie Gandy lost the ball at the one-yard line and offensive lineman Dylan Seiter recovered it in the end zone, a rarity in a football game regardless of season.

The special teams, hampered by the strong winds, were hit and miss throughout the day. Both Jason Syrovatka and Jay Carlson missed cracks at 23-yard field goals in the first half. Syrovatka later made a 44-yard field goal, but the kickoffs and punts were sporadic in length and accuracy.

Sumner finished the game with 11-of-22 passes completed for 104 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Kline was 6-of-10 for 55 yards in the game. Gandy, appearing in his first spring game for the Jacks, led the rushing game with 15 carries for 61 yards.

“[The game] was a lot closer than it was last year and we were getting a little nervous,” defensive lineman Chase Douglas said. “It’s huge for the defense to win. There’s a lot of talking on both sides.”

For both sides, it still stands as a good way to wrap up the 15 practices this time of year.

“Credit to all of the defense, they came out and stepped up. We played hard and executed well and I think that it’s a good way to end the spring,” said linebacker Chris Tracy.