CARBONDALE, Ill. (SDSU) — Top-ranked South Dakota State and No. 12 Southern Illinois battled down to the wire Saturday afternoon at Saluki Stadium, with the Jackrabbits finding just enough offense to come away with a 17-10 road victory.
With their 21st consecutive victory overall, SDSU improved to 7-0 overall on the season and 4-0 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The Salukis dropped to 5-2 overall and 2-2 in league play.
The game was scoreless through the first 26 minutes as the defenses set the tone for much of the contest. SDSU stopped the Salukis on downs inside the Jackrabbit 20-yard line on the opening drive of the game, following a successful fake punt attempt near midfield. Meanwhile, the Jackrabbits’ first scoring chance ended with a missed 48-yard field goal midway through the second quarter.
The Jackrabbits finally broke the ice by turning an interception into points in the closing minutes of the half. Dalys Beanum picked off a Nic Baker pass and his ensuing 31-yard return to the SIU 37 gave SDSU its best field position of the afternoon. Five plays later, Isaiah Davis scored from three yards out.
SDSU added to its lead on the opening drive of the third quarter. Jackrabbit quarterback Mark Gronowski hooked up with Jadon Janke for a 21-yard gain to midfield on the first play from scrimmage, then connected deep down field with freshman Griffin Wilde for a 49-yard touchdown two plays later for a 14-0 lead.
After a Quinton Hicks strip sack thwarted an SIU drive deep in SDSU territory, the Jackrabbits were in position to further add to their lead early in the fourth quarter, but Gronowski’s pass on the first play of the fourth quarter was deflected and intercepted by Mark Davis in the end zone. That ended a streak of 70 consecutive trips by the Jackrabbits into the red zone in which they had scored.
Southern Illinois drove the length of the field following the interception, getting on the board on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Baker to D’Ante Cox over the middle of the field. That capped a six-play, 80-yard drive that cut the deficit to 14-7.
SDSU countered with its best drive of the game, marching 15 plays and 60 yards before going back up by two scores on a season-long 44-yard field goal by Hunter Dustman. Gronowski scrambled for a first down with a run of eight yards on third-and-7 early in the drive and later completed a number of short passes to move the Jackrabbits into scoring position.
The Salukis trimmed the deficit to 17-10 on a 39-yard field goal by Thomas Burks with 32 seconds remaining A sack by Zac Wilson, one of four on the day by the Jackrabbits, forced SIU to settle for the field goal.
SIU’s attempt at an onside kick rolled out of bounds and the Jackrabbits were able to run out the clock.
The two teams finished tied in total yards with 308. The Jackrabbits’ total was nearly evenly split with 147 yards on the ground and 161 through the air. Gronowski completed 15-of-21 passes for 161 yards, with Jadon Janke leading the receiving corps with six catches for 49 yards.
Davis led the ground game with 91 yards on 15 carries, with Amar Johnson adding 10 carries for 67 yards.
For SIU, Baker completed 20-of-24 passes for 225 yards and also was the Salukis’ leading rusher with 31 yards on 15 carries. Cox hauled in seven receptions for 88 yards.
Illinois natives Cale Reeder and Jason Freeman shared game-high honors in tackles for the Jackrabbits with 10 apiece. Besides setting a career high with his 10 stops, Reeder also forced a fumble.
P.J. Jules was credited with nine tackles for SIU, with Dune Smith contributing eight tackles and a pair of pass breakups.
The Jackrabbits travel to South Dakota on Oct. 28 for a matchup between the two unbeaten teams in MVFC play. Kickoff for the Interstate Series game at the DakotaDome in Vermillion is set for 1 p.m.
- SDSU leads the all-time series, 10-4
- The Jackrabbits have won 10 of the last 12 meetings
- Gronowski had his streak of rushing for a touchdown end at 11 games
- SDSU has won 13 league games in a row and extended its winning streak against ranked FCS opponents to 12
- The Jackrabbits 21-game winning streak is tied for the eighth-longest in FCS history with Montana (1995-96) and Colgate (2002-03)
- SDSU has outscored the opposition by a 59-7 margin in the third quarter of games this season
- Jaxon Janke extended his streak of games with a reception to 41 after catching two passes for 16 yards in the game
- SDSU limited the Salukis to minus-3 net yards rushing in the second half
- Attendance was 11,927