BROOKINGS, S.D. (SDSU) – South Dakota State turned in its most complete performance of the season, putting together a big second half in defeating Northern Iowa, 38-7, in a top-10 showdown between Missouri Valley Football Conference rivals Saturday afternoon at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.
The Jackrabbits, ranked eighth in the STATS FCS media poll and ninth by the Football Championship Subdivision coaches, matched a season high by forcing four turnovers in improving to 8-3 overall and 5-2 in league play. UNI, ranked fourth by the media and fifth by the coaches, had its four-game winning streak snapped in falling to 7-4 overall and 5-2 in the MVFC.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Jackrabbits cracked the scoring column on its first drive of the second stanza. Freshman quarterback Keaton Heide ended up with the ball on a double reverse and fired a strike downfield to wide receiver Cade Johnson for a 65-yard gain to the UNI 4-yard on the first play of the series. Two plays later, Mikey Daniel, seeing action as the featured back in place of an injured Pierre Strong, Jr., plunged in from two yards out.
The SDSU defense, which came up with an interception by freshman Jordan Gandy on UNI’s first drive of the game, came up with another takeaway in the second quarter as Logan Backhaus picked off a pass off a deflection by Seven Wilson. The Jackrabbits also forced five Panther punts en route to a 7-0 halftime lead.
SDSU extended its lead to 17-0 with a pair of scores in the third quarter. The Jackrabbits marched 73 yards on nine plays to open the second half, capping the drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Heide to Jaxon Janke. Heide set what is believed to be a Jackrabbit single-game record by completing his first 14 passes of the game. The Wayzata, Minnesota, native ended the day 15-of-16 passing for 196 yards.
Chase Vinatieri added a 44-yard field goal for the Jackrabbits before UNI trimmed the margin to 17-7 in the final minute of the third quarter, finishing an eight-play, 60-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown run by Sam Schnee.
After faltering in the fourth quarter last week against Illinois State, the Jackrabbits turned the tables on Saturday by scoring three touchdowns over the final 15 minutes. First, Tolu Ogunrinde stripped the ball from UNI quarterback Will McElvain and Don Gardner scooped up the rolling football and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown.
Following Michael Griffin II matching Backhaus for the team lead with his third interception of the season, Heide tossed his second touchdown pass of the game, a 20-yard back-shoulder throw to Johnson in the right corner of the end zone. Johnson was the game’s leading receiver with six catches for 134 yards.
Backup quarterback Kanin Nelson provided the exclamation point with a 12-yard touchdown run in the waning moments. All 58 yards on the scoring drive came on the ground for a Jackrabbit squad that finished with a 337-239 advantage in total offense.
Daniel, a Brookings native playing on the Jackrabbits’ Senior Day, led the SDSU ground game with 82 yards on 21 carries. Devin Blakley added 21 yards on six carries.
For UNI, McElvain ended the afternoon 12-of-24 passing for 85 yards and added 50 rushing yards on 12 carries. Schnee paced the Panthers on the ground with 74 yards on 18 carries. Jaylin James was the receiving leader for UNI with three catches for 34 yards.
The Panthers’ Chris Kolarevic led all players with 13 tackles, followed by teammate Bryce Flater with 11.
Seven Wilson led SDSU with eight stops.
SDSU closes out the regular season next Saturday (Nov. 23) with a matchup at in-state rival South Dakota. Game time is set for 2 p.m. at the DakotaDome in Vermillion.