BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — The SDSU football team scored 21 points in the final 15 minutes on Saturday as the Jackrabbits advanced to the semifinal round of the FCS Playoffs.
The Jacks will now play Montana State in the semis.
“Excited to go to the semis again. We got off slow in the second half, we made some plays and I love these guys,” SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said.
SDSU trailed for the majority of the first half.
The Jackrabbits missed a field goal on the opening drive and Holy Cross had an answer. Quarterback Matthew Sluka ran it in from 56 yards away.
“I don’t know what percent, but I’m guessing more than half his (Sluka) yards came on scrambles. He’s got an incredible feel for the game and he’s elusive. He’s just a good football player,” Stiegelmeier said.
The Crusaders led 7-0.
SDSU scored the next six points, via two field goals. To that point, they had opportunities to score touchdowns, but couldn’t find a way to get into the endzone.
Holy Cross countered with a touchdown drive. The Crusaders got a touchdown pass from running back, Tyler Purdy who used a jump pass to connect with tight end, Sean Morris for the touchdown.
That led to a 14-6 lead for Holy Cross.
The Jacks would answer with their first touchdown drive of the game. Isaiah Davis would score his 13th touchdown of the season. He’d also score the two point conversion.
That tied the game at 14.
Holy Cross had an opportunity late in the half to grab the lead. They were given 100 seconds to try and start a drive, but the second play of the drive featured an interception by Jason Freeman who returned it for the pick six.
That was the first interception of the season for Freeman. He entered Saturday leading the team in tackles with 65.
“Both the receivers went under, I just followed the receiver. Luckily, he had butter fingers and I came up with it. I saw a lot of green and just ran,” Freeman said.
“It was a huge play. It gave us seven points and stopped a drive for them,” Stiegelmeier said.
The Jackrabbits carried that 21-14 lead into halftime.
Holy Cross opened the third quarter with an 11 play drive that went 83 yards and saw running back, Peter Oliver score for a one yard touchdown.
That evened the game at 21.
The Jackrabbit offense went three and out on the ensuing drive, handing the ball right back to the Crusaders.
Holy Cross put together a potential scoring drive that gave kicker, Derek Ng a look from 39 yards, but it was wide left.
The game stayed even at 21.
“We just had to capitalize. We had to put up seven, instead of three,” running back Isaiah Davis said.
That’s when the SDSU offense put together one of their biggest drives of the season. It was a nine play drive, that went 78 yards. Davis fueled the start and it was capped with an 18 yard touchdown pass from Mark Gronowski to Jaxon Janke.
SDSU collected a 28-21 lead, with 10:08 to play.
Holy Cross was unable to score on their next drive, giving SDSU a chance to go up by more than one score.
The Jacks marched down the field, riding workhorse, Isaiah Davis again. The touchdown would come via a read option run by Mark Gronowski.
That gave the Jackrabbits their largest lead of the game, which couldn’t have come at a better time.
From there, the Jacks were able to pin their ears back defensively and get some pressure. They’d force a four and out.
“We just bought in. We had a couple missed tackles, but when it was crunch time, that’s when we trust each other most,” Freeman said.
SDSU would seal the deal a minute later as Gronowski connected with Jadon Janke for a 21 yard touchdown.
The would be the official dagger, sending SDSU to a 42-21 win.
“We play all year and prepare all year for this. The games early in the season, they all mean so much, but these just mean a little more,” wide receiver Jaxon Janke said. “Games in December just mean a little more.”
The Jackrabbits will now play Montana State in the semifinals.