Jacks close out inconsistent season with winBROOKINGS — South Dakota State’s Cole Brodie returned the opening kickoff 64 yards to the University of North Dakota’s 31-yard line. The Jackrabbits gained an extra 15 yards on the play because of a face mask penalty on the Sioux.
By: Wayne Nelson, Grand Forks Herald
BROOKINGS — South Dakota State’s Cole Brodie returned the opening kickoff 64 yards to the University of North Dakota’s 31-yard line. The Jackrabbits gained an extra 15 yards on the play because of a face mask penalty on the Sioux.
The day didn’t get any better for the Sioux.
On a cold, cold day at Alumni-Coughlin Stadium, South Dakota State capitalized on a handful of early UND mistakes to beat the Sioux 21-0 on Saturday before 3,918 fans. The loss ended UND’s season at 3-8, the program’s first losing year since 2002.
UND’s third season of Division I FCS proved to be the program’s most difficult, due to a demanding schedule and an influx of young players at key positions.
Like a number of times this season, UND found itself in a hole early. There were times UND managed to dig out of it. There were times the Sioux couldn’t recover. There was no recovery Saturday.
“We’ve been put in some tough spots all year,” Sioux senior linebacker Ryan Kasowski said. “We’re used to it.”
But UND couldn’t recover from yet another slow start.
After Brodie’s kickoff return, Peter Reifenrath kicked a 26-yard field goal. R.J. McGill fumbled on the ensuing kickoff return, setting Reifenrath up for a 34-yard field goal four plays later.
UND’s second possession? An interception. UND’s offense again continued to struggle without starting quarterback Jake Landry.
UND managed only 185 yards of offense and didn’t crack the 100-yard mark until Josh Murray’s 8-yard run midway through the third quarter.
“I thought we did a good job in preparing and I thought we had a good game plan,” UND coach Chris Mussman said. “But we got outplayed in special teams today. They got a big kickoff return; we fumbled on a kickoff return and we had a punt blocked.”
That all occurred in the first half.
Those plays helped the Jackrabbits open a 21-0 lead in the second quarter.
Following the two field goals, SDSU went up 14-0 on Tyler Duffy’s 1-yard touchdown run with 2 minutes, 27 seconds left in the first quarter.
Duffy, taking over for the injured Kyle Minett, then scored on a 5-yard run with 5:22 left in the first half. The score capped SDSU’s most successful drive of the day, a 14-play, 86-yard march that consumed nearly 6½ minutes. Duffy finished with 127 rushing yards.
There was no more scoring as the game largely turned into a punting contest as the cold and wind made it difficult to sustain much of a passing game, although SDSU quarterback Tom O’Brien did throw for 235 yards. But three of the passes covered 100 yards.
“It was a tough day to throw the football,” SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier said. “It was cold out there.”
But it wasn’t a tough day to blitz.
That’s what SDSU’s defense did most of the day, taking advantage of UND’s struggling passing game. Brent Goska and Marcus Hendrickson, who have shared the quarterbacking duties since Landry’s injury, combined to connect on 12 of 34 passes for only 96 yards. The quarterbacks were sacked six times, two coming from Dirk Kool.
“We blitzed them a lot,” Stiegelmeier said.
Murray felt the Jacks’ heat, despite the miserable playing conditions.
“Their defensive line was incredible, getting to the quarterback and creating pressure,” said Murray, who led the Sioux with 50 rushing yards and 36 receiving yards.
The Jacks didn’t let up, either.
“Their plan was to pressure us all day,” Mussman said. “It was an effective plan.”
About the only bright spot was UND’s second-half defense, led by Mitch Goertz, who finished with 13 tackles. The Sioux held the Jacks scoreless in the final two quarters, giving up 159 yards.
The game reminded many of the old days of the North Central Conference. Both UND and SDSU were charter members of the league but the teams had not met since 2003.
However, the days of Division II are over. Both teams are now Division I and the stakes are higher.
“It’s a new era and we won the first matchup,” Stiegelmeier said. “I know the next time we play them, it’ll be a battle again.”
Nelson is a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, which, like The Daily Republic, is owned by Forum Communications Co.