Jacks prevail in dramatic finish
CARBONDALE, Ill. - South Dakota State drove 94 yards in the final three minutes, finishing the marathon drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Austin Sumner to Trevor Tiefenthaler with seven seconds remaining as the 21st-ranked Jackrabbits kept pace in the Missouri Valley Football Conference race with a 16-12 victory over Southern Illinois Saturday afternoon.
The victory also was career win No. 100 for Jackrabbit head coach John Stiegelmeier.
The Jackrabbits improved to 7-2 overall, and moved into a first-place tie with North Dakota State at 5-1 in league play. SIU dropped to 5-5 overall and 4-3 in the MVFC.
SDSU converted on a pair of fourth-down attempts in the game-winning drive, which covered 18 plays. The Jackrabbits overcame a loss of 18 yards on a bad snap from center as Sumner floated a 23-yard pass to Tiefenthaler for a first down on fourth-and-19. Later in the drive, Sumner connected with Aaron Rollin on a 15-yard pass play on fourth-and-8 that moved the ball to midfield.
Tiefenthaler later caught passes of 5 and 7 yards to move the ball inside the 20 before catching the game-winning touchdown across the middle. Sumner completed 11-of-16 passes on the drive for 101 yards, finishing the 26-of-45 for 284 yards.
SDSU's late heroics overcame several missed opportunities for the Jackrabbits, who came away without a touchdown in three previous trips to the red zone. The Jackrabbits had to settle for two field goals - one after a dropped pass in the end zone -- and lost a fumble inside the SIU 5 in the third quarter.
Southern Illinois drew first blood late in the first quarter with a 10-play, 74-yard drive that ended with a 7-yard touchdown run by Steven McKinney.
The Salukis gained a 10-0 lead four minutes into the second quarter with another methodical drive, marching 53 yards on 11 plays before Austin Johnson bounced in a 42-yard field goal off the crossbar.
The Jackrabbits got on the board on the ensuing possession, but left points on the field. SDSU converted on a pair of third downs, including a career-long 24-yard run by Sumner to move the ball deep into SIU territory. After Zach Zenner got loose for a 19-yard gain to set up first and goal at the 7, Zenner was dropped for losses on each of the next two plays. SDSU then dropped a pass in the end zone on third down before Justin Syrovatka salvaged the drive with a 28-yard field goal.
The game remained 10-3 at halftime after the Jackrabbits' Andy Mink blocked a 45-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the half.
SDSU pulled to within 10-6 on Syrovatka's second field goal of the game, a 41-yarder on the Jackrabbits' opening drive of the second half. The field goal capped an 11-play, 72-yard drive that began with SDSU backed up to its own 4-yard line.
Syrovatka's third field goal of the game, a 33-yarder at the 12-minute mark of the fourth quarter, made the score 10-9, but SIU recorded a safety moments later to push the margin to 12-9 as the Salukis dominated the battle for field position throughout the final stanza.
The Jackrabbit defense came up big late, forcing five consecutive three-and-outs on SIU's final five possesions of the game.
Tyrel Kool led SDSU receivers with six catches for 80 yards. Tiefenthaler recorded all of his career-high four receptions on the final drive for 46 yards. Walter Payton Award candidate Zach Zenner was held to a season-low 49 yards on 17 carries.
SIU's Kory Faulkner completed 20-of-30 passes for 122 yards and added a team-high 50 yards rushing. McKinney added 46 yards on the ground and caught four passes for 26 yards.
The Jackrabbit defense was led by the linebacking tandem of Ross Shafrath and T.J. Lally with 10 tackles each. Lally also was credited with three tackles for loss, including two sacks, and forced a fumble.
The Salukis received seven tackles each from Emmanuel Souarin, Joe Okon and Bryan Presume.
SDSU and North Dakota State will battle for sole possession of first place in the league standings next Saturday (Nov. 10) in Fargo. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. at the Fargodome.
NOTES: SDSU leads the all-time series, 3-2, and has won the last three meetings ... both Kool and Rollin moved into the Jackrabbit career top 10 for receptions, taking over eighth place with 120 career catches each ... Zenner upped his season rushing total to 1,496 ... Sumner moved into 10th place on the SDSU career passing charts with 4,080 yards ... Tiefenthaler's only other career touchdown reception came at SIU in 2010 ... attendance was 7,499