FARGO, N.D. (SDSU) – South Dakota State scored 10 fourth-quarter points to reclaim the Dakota Marker and also secure the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s automatic bid to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs with a 27-17 victory over North Dakota State Saturday afternoon at the Fargodome.
The fourth-ranked Jackrabbits improved to 5-1 overall and in the MVFC, and will make their ninth consecutive appearance in the FCS playoffs. Seedings and pairings will be announced Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Central Time on ESPNU. NDSU, ranked second in the Stats Perform media poll and third by the FCS coaches, dropped to 6-2 overall and 5-2 in the MVFC.
Tied at 17 entering the fourth quarter, SDSU took the lead for good on a 24-yard field goal by Cole Frahm with 7 minutes and 55 seconds remaining. Frahm’s second field goal of the game capped a 16-play, 70-yard drive that consumed more than nine minutes.
The Bison picked up one first down on their next drive, but were forced to punt for the fifth and final time. With SDSU taking over at its own 29, freshman quarterback Mark Gronowski rolled out before cutting down the right hash for a 55-yard gain to the NDSU 16. Three plays later, fellow freshman Isaiah Davis found paydirt from 5 yards out with 2:50 to play to seal the victory.
NDSU’s last-ditch comeback bid ended with an interception by Michael Griffin II in the final minute for what was the only turnover in the game.
SDSU never trailed, opening the scoring on its second drive of the game as Gronowski connected with tight end Blake Kunz over the middle for a 25-yard touchdown. The two squads traded field goals for the only other scoring of the first half as SDSU took a 10-3 lead into intermission.
The defending national champion Bison rallied behind quarterback Cam Miller in the third quarter, who scored on runs of 13 and 2 yards to tie the game.
In between, Jackrabbit All-America running back Pierre Strong, Jr., gave SDSU a momentary 17-10 lead midway through the third quarter on a 53-yard touchdown run. Strong carried 11 times for 95 yards as the Jackrabbits held a 305-97 rushing advantage for the game.
Gronowski finished with a game-high 126 yards on 16 carries and completed 10-of-14 passes for 149 yards. Davis added 84 yards on 16 carries.
The Jackrabbit running back tandem also led the team in receiving, with Strong catching four balls for 50 yards and Davis adding 36 yards on three receptions.
For NDSU, Hunter Luepke gained 43 yards on 14 carries, with Miller tallying 38 yards on 15 attempts. Miller ended the afternoon 9-of-16 passing for 149 yards.
Adam Bock registered a career-high 13 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss. Preston Tetzlaff contributed seven stops.
James Kaczor made a team-high 10 tackles for North Dakota State.