South Dakota States bid to lock up at least a share of the Missouri Valley Football Conference came up short Saturday afternoon as the 16th-ranked Jackrabbits dropped a defensive battle, 20-17, to top-ranked North Dakota State at the Fargodome.
In winning the Dakota Marker for the third consecutive year, NDSU clinched at least a share of the league title by improving to 9-1 overall and 6-1 in the MVFC. The Jackrabbits dropped to 7-3 overall, 5-2 in league play.
NDSU never trailed in the contest, taking a 3-0 lead with 6 minutes, 46 seconds to play in the first quarter on a 19-yard field goal by Adam Keller.
The Jackrabbits turned the ball over deep in their own territory later in the quarter and NDSU cashed in on the first play as Brock Jensen hooked up with Kevin Vaadeland for a 24-yard touchdown pass.
SDSU got on the board late in the second quarter with their most sustained drive of the opening half. After a Bison punt, SDSU converted twice on third down and capped a nine-play, 61-yard drive with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Austin Sumner to Brandon Hubert with 2 minutes, 43 seconds to play in the half.
The Bison fumbled on the ensuing kickoff, with the Jackrabbits falling on the loose football near midfield. SDSU turned the miscue into points as Justin Syrovatka connected on a season-long 46-yard field goal to knot the game at 10-all with 32 seconds to play in the first half.
NDSU regained the lead for good on their second drive of the third quarter. Jensen put NDSU in scoring position with a 56-yard run the longest play from scrimmage against the Jackrabbits this season on the opening play of the drive and Keller followed with a 30-yard field goal.
The Bison put the game out of reach late in the fourth quarter with the aid of two costly SDSU penalties. The first penalty was a roughing-the-passer call on third down that would have stopped the NDSU drive at the Jackrabbit 24. A substitution infraction on fourth-and-three at the Jackrabbit 5, gave the Bison a short-yardage opportunity that they converted with Sam Ojuri scoring from three yards out with 2:39 to play.
The Jackrabbits were penalized nine times for 76 yards, compared to three penalties for 15 yards by NDSU.
SDSU put together its longest drive of the game on the ensuing possession, converting on fourth-and-7 and third-and-15 before Austin Sumner hit Trevor Tiefenthaler on a 3-yard touchdown pass with 47 seconds remaining.
The Jackrabbits attempt at an onside kick was recovered by the Bison, who proceeded to run out the clock.
While points were hard to come by, so were yards. NDSU held a 251-209 advantage in total yards, with the Bison gaining 171 on the ground. Ojuri posted 75 yards on 19 carries, while Jensen added 67 yards on 14 attempts. Jensen completed 11-of-18 passes for 80 yards, with Ojuri finishing as the leading receiver with three catches for 16 yards.
Sumner completed 18-of-29 passes for 163 yards. Aaron Rollin tallied five receptions for 62 yards, while Jackrabbit running back Zach Zenner was limited to a season-low 43 yards on 14 carries.
SDSU linebacker Ross Shafrath led all players with 15 tackles. Andy Mink and T.J. Lally each notched nine stops for the Jackrabbits.
Travis Beck led North Dakota State with nine tackles.
The Jackrabbits close out the regular season next Saturday (Nov. 17), hosting the University of South Dakota. Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m. at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium. SDSU can earn a share for the MVFC title with a victory and an NDSU loss at Illinois State.
Courtesy: Jason Hove, SDSU Athletics