BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) – South Dakota State scored touchdowns on each of its first three offensive possessions and tallied 38 consecutive points in one stretch en route to a 45-17 victory over Butler in the 55th Beef Bowl Saturday night at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.
Playing before a crowd of 16,414, the Jackrabbits improved to 2-1 overall. Butler dropped to 2-1 on the young season. SDSU entered the matchup ranked second in the Football Championship Subdivision media poll conducted by Stats Perform and third in the AFCA coaches’ poll, while Butler was receiving votes in the coaches’ poll.
The Jackrabbits wasted little time to draw first blood, marching 75 yards on eight plays after the opening kickoff. Quarterback Mark Gronowski completed all three of his passes attempts for 35 yards on the drive and added a 23-yard scramble before plunging in from a yard out three minutes and 54 seconds into the game for the first score of the contest.
Butler quickly responded, knotting the game at 7-all on a 56-yard touchdown pass down the middle of the field from Bret Bushka to Luke Wooten.
SDSU gained the lead for good with another 75-yard scoring drive, highlighted by a career-long catch and run of 54 yards to the Butler 7 by Canyon Bauer on a middle screen from Gronowski. On the next play, Gronowski connected with Jaxon Janke over the middle for a touchdown.
The Jackrabbit lead grew to 21-7 three minutes into the second quarter as Gronowski hooked up with Jadon Janke in the right corner of the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown. That capped an 11-play, 65-yard drive that began late in the first quarter.
SDSU extended its lead to 28-7 heading into halftime after recovering a muffed punt in Butler territory. Five plays after the miscue, Gronowski tossed his third touchdown pass of the opening half as he found Zach Heins open down the right hash for a 28-yard touchdown.
It was more of the same in the second half as the Jackrabbits scored the first 17 points on a 27-yard field goal by Hunter Dustman in the third period and a pair of 2-yard touchdown runs by reserves Angel Johnson and Rudy Voss three minutes apart early in the fourth quarter. Voss’ touchdown came after Aaron Wolfcale-Holsten recovered a fumble at the Butler 17 for the third Bulldog turnover of the night.
Butler managed a couple late scores against the Jackrabbit second and third units, ending the SDSU onslaught with a 33-yard field goal by Luka Zurak, followed by a 2-yard touchdown run by Bushka.
The Jackrabbits finished with their most prolific offensive performance of the season by far, racking up a 463-264 advantage in total offense. Gronowski ended the night 17-of-25 passing for 279 yards and added 55 rushing yards on eight attempts. Isaiah Davis led the ground game with 74 yards on 11 carries, while Jadon Janke tallied 87 receiving yards on five catches.
Bauer contributed career highs of five catches and 76 receiving yards for SDSU.
Bushka paced Butler with 211 yards through the air on 18-of-31 passing and gained a team-best 29 rushing yards on nine carries.
Daeton Mcgaughy led the SDSU defensive effort with seven tackles, followed by four each from fellow starting linebackers Adam Bock and Jason Freeman.
Will Mason was credited with a game-high eight tackles for Butler.
South Dakota State opens Missouri Valley Football Conference play Sept. 24 at Missouri State in a battle between top-10 teams. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at Plaster Stadium in Springfield, Missouri, with coverage on ESPN3.com.