GRAND FORKS, N.D. (SDSU) – For the second week in a row the top-ranked South Dakota State football team was on the ropes early on the road, but once again the Jackrabbits owned the second half to down 20th-ranked North Dakota, 49-35, Saturday afternoon at the Alerus Center.

SDSU scored 35 consecutive points in the middle portion of the game, including a 21-0 outburst in the third quarter to run its winning streak to seven and improve to 7-1 overall. Coupled with Southern Illinois’ loss Saturday at South Dakota, the Jackrabbits took over sole possession of first place in the Missouri Valley Football Conference with a 5-0 mark.

UND dropped to 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the MVFC.

The Fighting Hawks built a 14-0 lead in the first seven minutes of the game. UND took the opening kickoff and finished a six-play, 75-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Schuster to Bo Belquist.

Belquist set up the next Fighting Hawk touchdown with a 61-yard punt return to the SDSU 11. Five plays later, backup quarterback Quincy Vaughn plunged in from a yard out.

With UND looking to go up three scores on its next possession, the Jackrabbits were able to stem the tide as DyShawn Gales picked off a pass and rolled 31 yards to the end zone to cut the deficit to 14-7 with 4:20 to play in the first half.

The two squads traded touchdowns in the second quarter, although UND went back up by 14 on a 2-yard touchdown run by Tyler Hoosman that came after a 34-yard flea flicker pass from Schuster to Jack Wright.

What followed was a Jackrabbit avalanche.

SDSU put together its best offensive drive of the first half in the closing minutes, covering 75 yards on eight plays, with the final 32 yards coming on a touchdown pass from Mark Gronowski to Tucker Kraft, the latter of whom returned to the lineup Saturday after missing the last six games due to injury.

SDSU put together a six-play, 66-yard touchdown drive to open the second half and knot the game at 21-all. Jaxon Janke, who had an 18-yard reception earlier in the drive, capped the march with a 10-yard catch and run.

A flurry of more big plays followed, starting with a 58-yard punt return by Jadon Janke to the UND 8-yard line that led to a 2-yard touchdown pass from Gronowski to Zach Heins for the Jackrabbits’ first lead of the game at 28-21.

On the Fighting Hawks’ first play from scrimmage on the ensuing drive, Saiveon Williamson forced a fumble and Isaiah Stalbird’s recovery and 8-yard return to the UND 17 produced another short field for the Jackrabbits. First, Gronowski caught a throw-back pass from Jadon Janke for 16 yards, then the sophomore quarterback scored from a yard out on the next play.

Gronowski would score again on a 10-yard run early in the fourth quarter and Amar Johnson added a 1-yard touchdown run midway through the final stanza to close out the Jackrabbits’ scoring.

The Fighting Hawks scored a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter on a 9-yard Schuster run and their second blocked punt of the game resulted in an 11-yard touchdown.

Gronowski accounted for a career-high five touchdowns – three passing and two rushing – and finished the game 15-of-20 passing for 197 yards. He also gained 20 yards on six carries while Johnson, playing in place of an injured Isaiah Davis, led SDSU with 71 yards on 14 carries.

Jadon Janke tallied five catches for 86 yards, with Kraft adding three receptions for 53 yards. Kraft also returned an onside kick 30 yards to set up SDSU’s final score of the contest.

UND finished with a 365-308 advantage in total offense as Schuster completed 27-of-39 passes for 291 yards, but was sacked five times. Hoosman carried 15 times for 44 yards.

Stalbird and Jason Freeman each were credited with eight tackles to lead the Jackrabbits.

NOTES

  • UND leads the all-time series, 47-36-5, although the Jackrabbits have won four of the five matchups in the schools’ Division I eras
  • Saturday’s game marked SDSU’s first while ranked No. 1 in a poll
  • The Jackrabbits’ seven-game winning streak matches their longest as an FCS program ( 2006, 2017, 2020-21 spring season)
  • SDSU has intercepted at least one pass in all eight games this season
  • Malik Lofton had the Jackrabbits’ other interception, which came in the end zone in the closing seconds of the first half
  • Jadon Janke finished with 172 all-purpose yards (86 receiving, 58 punt returns, 28 kickoff returns)
  • Jaxon Janke’s touchdown reception was the 20th of his career, tying him with Jason Schneider (20 TD catches from 2011-14) for seventh place in program history
  • SDSU’s five sacks were registered by five different players
  • Reece Winkleman moved past Ryan Earith (19 sacks from 2016-19) for fourth place on the SDSU career sacks chart with 19.5, and also moved into a tie with Zach Carter (38 tackles for loss from 1994-98) for fourth place in that category
  • Caleb Sanders took over sole possession of sixth place in career tackles for loss with the 36th of his career
  • Attendance was 11,067