CEDAR FALLS, IA (SDSU) – South Dakota State’s Hunter Dustman booted a 26-yard field goal with no time left on the clock, lifting the top-ranked Jackrabbits to a 31-28 victory over Northern Iowa Saturday night and securing at least a share of the Missouri Valley Football Conference title.
The Jackrabbits, who tied a school record with their ninth consecutive victory, improved to 9-1 overall and remained undefeated in league play with a 7-0 mark. SDSU also will receive the MVFC’s automatic berth into the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, marking the program’s 11th consecutive postseason appearance.
UNI, which was receiving votes in both the Stats Perform media poll and AFCA coaches’ poll, fell to 5-5 overall and 4-3 in the MVFC.
Dustman’s heroics came after the Jackrabbits forced UNI to punt after Caleb Sanders recorded his third sack of the game and the fifth by SDSU in the contest. Jadon Janke fielded a line-drive punt at his own 42 and returned it 19 yards to the Panthers’ 39 with 1 minute and 8 seconds remaining and the game tied at 28-all.
SDSU advanced the ball on the ground to the UNI 18, but Dustman’s first attempt against a heavy rush at a 35-yard field goal was hooked to the left as time expired. However, the Panthers were flagged for leaping, which moved the ball to the 9 for an untimed down. This time, Dustman split the uprights from 26 yards out for his third field goal of the game and his second game-winning kick of the season.
A junior from East Bethel, Minnesota, Dustman gave the Jackrabbits a 3-0 lead on a 23-yard field goal in the first quarter and connected on a career-long 45-yarder on the final play of the first half for a 20-14 SDSU lead at intermission.
SDSU went up by two scores at 28-14 on the opening drive of the second half, putting together a nine-play, 72-yard drive that culminated with a 16-yard touchdown run by Amar Johnson. Isaiah Davis added the two-point conversion on a pass from Mark Gronowski.
Northern Iowa came back to tie the game behind the play of quarterback Theo Day, who tossed a 21-yard touchdown pass to Logan Wolf in the third quarter and ran for a 2-yard game-tying score with 4:41 to play in the fourth quarter. Day ended the day 16-of-30 passing for 270 yards, but was intercepted twice.
UNI gained its only lead of the game at 7-3 in the first minute of the second quarter, when Vance McShane was stacked up at the line of scrimmage but bounced outside around right end for a 34-yard touchdown run.
The Jackrabbits came back with touchdowns on their next two drives for a 17-7 lead. Isaiah Davis plunged in from a yard out for the first score, while Jadon Janke caught a 22-yard touchdown from Gronowski after he gave SDSU great field position after a 20-yard punt return. A 57-yard catch and run by tight end Tucker Kraft set up Davis’ score.
Janke tallied 78 yards on five punt returns and another 18 yards on a kickoff return. His touchdown catch was his only reception of the game.
UNI trimmed the deficit back to 17-14 on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Day to Desmond Hutson with 92 seconds remaining in the first half, but the Jackrabbits worked the two-minute drill to perfection to push the lead back to six at the close of the first half.
SDSU finished with a 427-358 advantage in total offense as Gronowski completed 21-of-34 passes for 263 yards. Davis carried 24 times for 105 yards and added five catches for 34 yards. Kraft and Jaxon Janke each finished with four catches for 69 and 60 yards, respectively.
Jason Freeman was credited with six tackles, including a sack, to lead the Jackrabbit defense. UNI’s Korby Sander registered a game-high 14 tackles, followed by 13 from Spencer Cuvelier.
The Jackrabbits close out the regular season next Saturday (Nov. 12) by hosting Illinois State with a chance to win the MVFC title outright. Kickoff on Senior Day and Military Appreciation Day is set for 2 p.m. at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.
Northern Iowa leads the all-time series, 33-24-2, including holding an 11-8 edge in the Division I era (since 2004)
The visiting team has won eight of the last 11 matchups
SDSU has started the MVFC season 7-0 for the first time since joining the league in 2008
The Jackrabbits also won nine consecutive games in 1928 and between the 1950 (last three games) and 1951 (first six games) seasons
SDSU also claimed MVFC titles — both shared — in 2016 and during the 2020-21 spring season
The Jackrabbits are 6-0 this season when scoring first
SDSU has scored on its opening drive of the second half in five consecutive games (four touchdowns, one field goal)
Davis moved into a tie for 10th place on the SDSU all-time rushing touchdowns chart with Darwin Gonnerman (1966-68) and Taryn Christion (2015-18) with the 26th of his career
Davis posted the 12th 100-yard game of his career and fifth of the season
Jaxon Janke moved into a tie with Jason Schneider (2011-14) for fourth place in career receptions at SDSU with 175, while also passing Jeff Tiefenthaler (173 receptions from 1983-86) on Saturday
With his career-high three sacks (for 30 yards), Sanders upped his career total to 20 and leaped from 10th place to fourth on the Jackrabbit career charts, overtaking teammate Reece Winkelman (19.5 sacks) for fourth place in SDSU history
Sanders and Winkelman are now tied for fourth in career tackles for loss with 39
SDSU’s interceptions were by safeties Cale Reeder and Chase Norblade, giving the Jackrabbits at least one interception in all 10 games this season
Attendance was 9,449