Jacks complete season with win
MACOMB, Ill. - Austin Sumner set the Missouri Valley Football Conference freshman passing record and the South Dakota State defense held Western Illinois out of the end zone until the final minute of the game in posting a 27-7 victory Saturday afternoon at Western Illinois.
The Jackrabbits recorded their third consecutive victory to finish the season 5-6 overall and 4-4 in league play. WIU dropped to 2-8 overall, 1-6 in the MVFC.
After having a field goal blocked on the opening drive of the game, the Jackrabbits got on the board on their next possession, marching 73 yards on 10 plays before Sumner found Zach Zenner on a swing pass down the right sideline for a 7-yard touchdown. Sumner completed passes of 23 and 15 yards to Dale Moss earlier in the drive to move SDSU deep into Western Illinois territory.
Western Illinois, meanwhile, struggled to find a rhythm offensively. When it did, the Fighting Leathernecks were their own worst enemy as unsportsmanlike conduct and personal foul penalties killed successive drives into Jackrabbit territory.
Sumner and the Jackrabbits added to the lead in the closing minute of the second quarter. Sumner connected with Aaron Rollin on passes of 25 and 20 yards to open the drive, which was further extended after a roughing the passer penalty on third down. Two plays later, Sumner broke loose up the middle for an 8-yard touchdown run with 37 seconds remaining in the half. The drive covered 63 yards on seven plays and took only 40 seconds off the clock as SDSU led 14-0 at halftime.
SDSU turned a turnover into points early in the third quarter. David Godley intercepted a Josh Hudson pass and returned the ball 30 yards to the Western Illinois 15. The Jackrabbits failed to pick up a first down, but Justin Syrovatka booted a 27-yard field goal to up the lead to 17-0.
The Jackrabbit defense came up with another big play on the ensuing possession. With WIU again driving into SDSU territory, Winston Wright stripped Leatherneck receiver Terriun Crump and scooped up the loose ball for a 68-yard touchdown.
Western Illinois turned the ball over for the third time in as many second-half possessions as Wright recorded his team-leading third interception of the season at the Jackrabbit 49. SDSU again turned the miscue into points as Syrovatka split the uprights from 28 yards for his second field goal of the day.
Western Illinois broke into the scoring column with 36 seconds remaining in the game. Crump, who gained 36 yards earlier in the drive on a reverse, caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Cody Reardon.
A candidate for the Jerry Rice Award as the top freshman in the Football Championship Subdivision, Sumner completed 19-of-39 passes for 208 yards. He finished the season with 2,382 yards, breaking the previous league freshman record of 2,369 yards set by Illinois State quarterback Matt Brown in 2009.
Moss led the receiving corps with seven catches for 88 yards, followed by Rollin with five receptions for 69 yards. Seven different Jackrabbit players recorded at lest one reception.
Zenner led SDSU on the ground with 38 yards on 12 carries.
Nikko Watson paced the Fighting Leatherneck offense with 170 yards rushing on 29 carries, including a 55-yard run in the second quarter. Crump, who did not catch a pass until the opening drive of the third quarter, caught five balls for 28 yards. WIU gained only 60 yards through the air.
Overall, WIU held a 289-288 advantage in total offense.
Senior linebacker Mike Lien led the Jackrabbit defense with nine tackles. Kevin Palermo and Ryan Carleton shared game-high honors with 11 tackles for Western Illinois.
NOTES: Series record (4-4) ... SDSU has won its regular season finale in 14 of John Stegelmeier's 15 seasons as head coach ... Sumner finished eighth on the SDSU single-season passing charts with his 2,383 yards and ninth in total offense (passing and rushing) with 2,287 yards ... Moss and Rollin each finished with 61 receptions, good for eighth place on the Jackrabbit single-season receptions list ... Moss finished fifth in single-season receiving yards with 949, while Rollin capped the season in a tie for sixth place with 906 yards ... wide receiver Brandon Hubert has caught a pass in 21 of 22 career games ... Lien finished the season with a team-best 100 tackles ... attendance was 3,821 at Hanson Field