BROOKINGS, S.D. (SDSU) — South Dakota State turned the 53rd Annual Beef Bowl into a block party, scoring in all three phases of the game en route to a 43-7 victory over Southern Utah before a crowd of 14,269 at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.
The third-ranked Jackrabbits blocked three kicks in the contest – two field goals and a punt – in closing out the nonconference portion of their schedule by improving to 3-1 on the season. Southern Utah dropped to 1-3.
STATS FCS Walter Payton Award candidate Cade Johnson put the Jackrabbits on the board with a 30-yard touchdown reception from J’Bore Gibbs, the latter of whom returned to the starting lineup after missing the last two games due to injury. The touchdown came on a fourth-and-3 play to cap a drive that began with a 23-yard completion from Gibbs to Johnson.
Southern Utah threatened to score on consecutive possessions between the end of the first and start of the second quarters. Each time, the Jackrabbits turned away the Thunderbirds with blocked field goals. Xavier Ward was credited with the first block on a 34-yard attempt, while Logan Backhaus got a hand on the second try from 25 yards out.
In between, SDSU built its lead to 14-0 with a seven-play, 80-yard drive. Gibbs, who was making his first appearance at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium, connected with fellow redshirt freshman Jaxon Janke on a pair of pass plays for 28 and 24 yards before Mikey Daniel rambled in from a yard out for his fourth rushing touchdown of the season.
The Jackrabbits kept it on the ground to increase their lead to 21-0 with three minutes to go in the first half. All 69 yards of the five-play drive came on the ground as Pierre Strong, Jr. carried four times for 61 yards before C.J. Wilson quickly turned the left corner after evading a defender in the backfield and scampered into the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown.
SUU put together what would its only scoring drive of the game, a 10-play, 75-yard march to close out the opening half. Quarterback Chris Helbig plunged in from a yard out to finish off a drive that was aided by a pair of SDSU penalties.
The Jackrabbit special teams unit came up with another big play on the first drive of the second half. After the SDSU defense forced a three-and-out, Jadon Janke broke through the line and blocked a Thunderbird punt that rolled out of the back of the end zone for a safety and a 23-7 Jackrabbit lead.
The SDSU lead grew to 29-7 on the next T-Bird offensive possession as STATS FCS Buck Buchanan Award nominee Christian Rozeboom picked off a pass and raced to the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown.
Strong finished off the scoring with a pair of touchdowns later in the second half. First, the sophomore running back from Little Rock, Arkansas, caught a swing pass in the right flat and cut to the middle of the field, outracing three defenders for a 45-yard score in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, Strong closed out a seven-play, 68-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown run.
The Jackrabbits ended the night nearly equal in rushing and passing, gaining 241 yards on the ground and 215 through the air for a 456-356 advantage in total offense. Strong led the way with 85 yards on 11 carries, with Wilson adding 76 yards on nine attempts.
Gibbs completed 15-of-24 passes, but was intercepted twice. Johnson caught five passes for 68 yards, with Adam Anderson tallying four catches for 24 yards.
For SUU, Helbig was 26-of-38 passing for 211 yards, with Lance Lawson leading the receiving corps with nine catches for 75 yards. Eleven different players caught a pass for the Thunderbirds in the contest as Tyler Skidmore went 4-for-6 passing for 34 yards in relief.
Defensively, Backhaus registered a career-high 11 tackles to lead all players. Seven Wilson added 10 stops. Nela Otukolo paced Southern Utah with seven tackles.
The Jackrabbits have their lone bye week of the season before returning to action Oct. 5 by opening Missouri Valley Football Conference action by hosting Southern Illinois on Hobo Day. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.
- SDSU leads the all-time series, 7-1, and has won each of the last seven meetings
- The Jackrabbits improved to 32-21 in Beef Bowl games
- SDSU improved to 23-2 at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium and extended its home winning streak to 14 games
- The Jackrabbits have outscored the opposition by a 57-7 margin in the third quarter of games this season
- SDSU has scored in 14 of 16 quarters in 2019
- Johnson moved into seventh place in career receiving yards at SDSU with 1,957, moving past Rusty Lenners (1,942 yards from 1993-96)
- Daniel scored his 26th career rushing touchdown, breaking a tie for 10th place on the Jackrabbit career charts with Cory Koening (2004-07) and moving into a tie for eighth place with Darwin Gonnerman (1966-68) and Taryn Christion (2015-18)
- Ben Dinkel landed all three of his punts inside the SUU 20-yard line and averaged 51.7 yards per attempt, including a career-long 75-yarder that ranks as the second-longest punt by a Jackrabbit in the Division I era (Neal Bainbridge – 77-yarder at Texas State on Oct. 1, 2005)
- The Jackrabbits have intercepted a pass in all four games this season and 10 of their last 11 games dating back to last year
- SDSU has four blocked kicks so far in 2019 and tallied eight blocked kicks to rank third in the Football Championship Subdivision a year ago