LINCOLN, Neb. - The South Dakota State University football team battled throughout with nationally ranked Nebraska before falling 17-3 before a crowd of 85,573 Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.
The Jackrabbits dropped to 0-3 on the season, while the Cornhuskers, ranked sixth in the Associated Press poll and seventh in the USA Today coaches' poll, improved to 4-0.
The game was scoreless through one quarter although the Jackrabbits controlled the opening 15 minutes. SDSU gained two first downs on the opening drive before being forced to punt. On Nebraska's first play from scrimmage, Anthony Wise forced Cornhusker quarterback Taylor Martinez to fumble and Winston Wright fell on the loose football to give the Jackrabbits the ball at the Nebraska 24.
After an 8-yard pass from Thomas O'Brien to Aaron Rollin, the Jackrabbits were set up first and goal from the 2-yard line. An illegal motion penalty negated a touchdown and SDSU was later stuffed on successive plays from the 1-yard line to thwart the drive.
Following three-and-outs by each team, Nebraska cracked the scoring column in the opening minute of the second quarter. After scrambling for 33 yards earlier in the drive, Martinez connected with Mike McNeill on a 64-yard pass play on the first play of the second stanza that gave the Cornhuskers first and goal from the Jackrabbit 3. On the next play, Rex Burkhead found paydirt to cap a six-play, 96-yard drive, and the ensuing Alex Henery extra point gave Nebraska a 7-0 lead.
The Cornhuskers' big-play offense struck again moments later as Martinez hit Kyle Reed along the right sideline for a 33-yard touchdown with 10:46 to play in the half.
SDSU forced its second turnover of the game late in the first half as Dirk Kool picked off a pass that was returned seven yards to the Jackrabbit 47. However, the Jackrabbits failed to pick up a first down and the half ended 14-0 in favor of Nebraska.
The Jackrabbits got on the board on their second possession of the second half with a 12-play, 73-yard drive that ended with a 35-yard field goal by Kyle Harris. Walter Payton Award candidate Kyle Minett gained 42 yards on the ground during the drive, including a 26-yard jaunt that pushed SDSU out of the shadow of its own goal line.
Nebraska answered with a field goal of its own on the first snap of the fourth quarter, a 30-yarder by Henery that culminated an 11-play, 52-yard drive.
The momentum appeared to shift back in the Jackrabbits' favor as Derek Domino intercepted a Martinez pass that he returned for an apparent touchdown. However, SDSU was flagged for an illegal block during the return, spotting the ball back at the Jackrabbit 33. The Jackrabbits advanced into Nebraska territory on a 33-yard pass from O'Brien to Tyrel Kool, but O'Brien was intercepted two plays later at the Cornhusker 1-yard line by Alfonzo Dennard.
The Huskers held a 345-236 advantage in total offense, gaining 205 on the ground. Martinez gained 75 yards on 13 carries, with Burkhead adding 66 yards on 14 carries. Martinez also completed 6-of-14 passes for 140 yards, with Brandon Kinnie leading the way with three receptions for 34 yards.
Minett, a senior running back from Ruthton, Minn., paced the Jackrabbit offense with 112 yards on 28 carries and added a team-high five receptions for 14 yards. O'Brien finished the night 12-of-28 passing for 95 yards.
Domino led the Jackrabbit defense with a career-high 16 tackles, including two for loss. Fellow linebacker Mike Lien added 11 stops.
Levonte Davis made a game-high 19 tackles for Nebraska.
SDSU returns to Missouri Valley Football Conference play Oct. 2 at Northern Iowa. Kickoff is set for 4:05 p.m. at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
NOTES: Nebraska leads the all-time series, 2-0, with the other meeting a 58-7 Cornhusker victory in 1963 ... the Jackrabbits dropped to 0-3 against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents since moving to Division I at the start of the 2004 season ... SDSU ran 20 plays in the first quarter, compared to eight by Nebraska ... the Jackrabbits have been outscored 51-0 in the first half this season ... the Jackrabbits were credited with six tackles for loss, compared to four by Nebraska ... SDSU last started a season with an 0-3 record in 2007, but went on to win the Great West Football Conference title ... Minett turned in the 16th 100-yard game of his career and second against an FBS and Big 12 Conference opponent (111 yards at Iowa State in 2008) ... Minett moved into third place on the SDSU career rushing charts with 3,333 yards, passing Dan Sonnek (3,304 yards from 1984-87) ... Cole Brodie returned five punts for 60 yards, tallied 23 yards on a kickoff return and made five tackles ... Domino recorded double digits in tackles for the fourth consecutive game, dating back to last season ... the crowd was the 10th largest in stadium history and included a strong SDSU contingent