BROOKINGS, S.D. (SDSU) – Top-seeded South Dakota State scored on drives of 70 or more yards on each of its first three offensive possessions and cruised into the Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinals with a 42-6 victory over Delaware Saturday afternoon at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.
The Jackrabbits, who ran their winning streak to a school-record 11 games, improved to 11-1 overall and will host No. 8 Holy Cross next week. Game date and time are to be determined.
SDSU spotted Delaware an early 3-0 lead after the Jackrabbits fumbled a punt following the Blue Hens going three-and-out on the game’s first drive. Delaware cashed in after taking over at the SDSU 37, advancing to the Jackrabbit 10 before Brandon Ratcliffe connected on a 27-yard field goal with 8 minutes and 6 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
However, Delaware starting quarterback Nolan Henderson left the game with an apparent leg injury on the play before the field goal and did not return to the game.
The Jackrabbits rattled off the next 21 points behind a potent run game. Quarterback Mark Gronowski ran for 51 yards up the middle — his longest carry of the season — to the Delaware 21 on the Jackrabbits’ initial series, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by Isaiah Davis.
Davis upped the Jackrabbit lead to 14-3 early in the second quarter, capping a six-play, 75-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown run, and Gronowski called his own number for a 1-yard touchdown run moments later to finish off an eight-play, 77-yard match after Delaware missed a 40-yard field goal.
The Blue Hens, who finished the season 8-5 overall, drew to within 21-6 on a 39-yard field goal by Ratcliffe on the final play of the opening half.
SDSU continued its third-quarter dominance by putting 21 more points on the board. Taking the second-half kickoff, the Jackrabbits put together one of their most methodical drives of the season, stringing together a 14-play, 58-yard scoring march that chewed up half of the stanza and ended on a 2-yard touchdown run by Amar Johnson.
The Jackrabbits tacked on two more touchdowns in the second half of the quarter to close out the scoring. Matthew Durrance recovered an errant snap on a would-be punt attempt in the end zone for a touchdown, with the final score coming on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Gronowski to Jaxon Janke in the back of the end zone.
Gronowski ended the day 11-of-15 passing for 131 yards, while adding 73 more yards on the ground on eight attempts. Davis, who crossed the 1,000-yard mark for the season, paced the rushing attack with 104 yards on 14 carries as SDSU finished with a 222-64 advantage on the ground. Jaxon Janke was the leading receiver with four catches for 38 yards.
The game ended on a somber note as Delaware’s backup quarterback Ryan O’Connor was carted off the field after a personal foul (non-targeting) penalty against the Jackrabbits, resulting in the contest to be called with 67 seconds remaining. Initial reports from the Delaware program were that O’Connor was responsive upon leaving the field before undergoing further evaluation.
O’Connor completed 10-of-21 passes for 104 yards, with Thyrick Pitts the primary target for the Blue Hens with five receptions for 57 yards.
Saiveon Williamson led the Jackrabbit defense with a career-high 11 tackles, with fellow linebacker Jason Freeman adding nine stops. Reece Winkelman tallied two of SDSU’s three sacks.
Johnny Buchanan registered a game-high 14 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss, for Delaware.
South Dakota State leads the all-time series, 2-1, with both Jackrabbit wins coming in the FCS playoffs
The Jackrabbits improved to 10-1 in home postseason games, including a 9-1 mark at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium
SDSU upped its all-time postseason record to 15-12, including a 15-11 mark in FCS playoff games
The Jackrabbits matched the school record for wins in a season with 11 (2017, 2021)
Davis notched his 13th career 100-yard game, six of which have come in the postseason
Davis moved into a tie with Anthony Watson (2003-06) for career rushing touchdowns at SDSU with 29
SDSU scored on its first possession of the second half for the sixth time in its last seven games (five touchdowns, one field goal)
Gronowski rushed and passed for a touchdown in the same game for the 11th time in his career and seventh time this season
Jaxon Janke’s touchdown reception was the 21st of his career, tying his for sixth place on the Jackrabbits’ all-time charts with 21
The Jackrabbits had their streak of consecutive games with an interception end at 11
SDSU has out-scored the opposition by a 109-23 margin in the third quarter of games this season
Attendance was 6,117