Jackrabbits win MVFC opener, 24-10
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- South Dakota State bottled up the Indiana State running game while its own running back, Zach Zenner, rushed for 237 yards and a touchdown as the Jackrabbits knocked off the 22nd-ranked Sycamores, 24-10, in the Missouri Valley Football Conference opener for both teams Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
SDSU improved to 3-1 overall. Indiana State dropped to 2-2 on the season.
The Jackrabbits scored on their opening drive, marching 69 yards on 15 plays before a 37-yard field goal by Justin Syrovatka.
Neither team could generate much offense until the closing minutes of the first half, starting with a 57-yard touchdown run by Zenner with 2:47 to play that made the score 10-0. SDSU got the ball back late in the half, but a short punt set the Sycamores up at the Jackrabbit 34-yard line in the closing seconds.
Indiana State drove to the SDSU 9-yard line before settling for a 25-yard field goal by Tanner Fritschle on the final play of the first half to trim the margin to 10-3.
The Jackrabbits took advantage of two Indiana State penalties to convert three times on third down to extend the lead to two touchdowns late in the third quarter. Austin Sumner capped the nine-play, 70-yard drive with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Seth Daughters.
The Sycamores came back with their lone touchdown of the game, extending the drive with a fake punt. Walter Payton Award candidate Shakir Bell scored from two yards out with 21 seconds remaining in the third quarter to make the score 17-10.
However, Bell was held in check the entire day, gaining only 54 yards on 18 carries. His longest run of the day was five yards.
With the game in the balance, Zenner tipped the scales back in the Jackrabbits' favor with his second long run of the day - an 87-yard burst on third-and-2 that put the ball at the Indiana State 3-yard line. Two plays later, Cam Jones carried the ball in from two yards out to cap the scoring.
The Jackrabbit defense stopped Indiana State at the 2-yard line late in the game to complete a six-sack afternoon. Linebacker Ross Shafrath led Jackrabbit tacklers with 11 stops, followed by 10 tackles and an interception by T.J. Lally. Marshall Peugh and David Hettiger were each credited with two sacks.
Zenner's 237 yards came on 29 carries - an average of 8.2 yards per carry. Backup Reggie Gandy added 58 yards on 10 carries as SDSU held a 297-23 advantage in net rushing yards.
The Jackrabbits struggled in the passing game as Sumner completed only 6-of-19 attempts for 51 yards. Daughters caught two passes for 28 yards, while Aaron Rollin returned to the lineup with a pair of catches for 17 yards.
For Indiana State, Mike Perish completed 27-of-46 passes for 219 yards. Demory Lawshe led all receivers with nine catches for 62 yards, with Michael Mardis adding five catches for 59 yards.
Aaron Archie led Indiana State with 11 tackles.
The Jackrabbits return home next Saturday to face Missouri State in the 46th Annual Beef Bowl. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium.
NOTES: SDSU leads the all-time series, 3-2, ending a two-game winning streak by Indiana State ... the Jackrabbits improved to 22-11 in MVFC games since joining the league in 2008 ... SDSU knocked off a ranked opponent for the first time since winning at Southern Illinois in 2010 ... the Jackrabbits are 12-26 against ranked opponents since moving the Football Championship Subdivision ranks in 2004 ... SDSU has won six consecutive games against FCS opponents dating back to last season, including four MVFC games .... Zenner ended the day with 895 yards for the season - an average of 223.8 yards per game ... Shafrath has led the Jackrabbits in tackles in all four games this season and posted double figures in five of the last six games ... SDSU has allowed a combined 66 net yards rushing over the last three games ... attendance was 5,291