BROOKINGS -- Seventh-ranked Southern Illinois rallied from a 20-0 deficit to open the game and won the game by stopping No. 2-ranked South Dakota State on a two-point conversion in overtime, 42-41, in front of 12,216 spectators Saturday at Dykhouse Stadium.

Donnavan Spencer rushed for a 10-yard touchdown on the fourth play of the Salukis’ first possession in overtime. SDSU answered in just two plays, with quarterback Chris Oladokun finding tight end Tucker Kraft for an 11-yard touchdown. SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier called for a two-point try to win the game, with Oladokun trying to find a well-covered Zach Heins in the end zone. The ball hit the SIU defender in the back and fell to the turf, delivering the Salukis a road win and SDSU’s first loss of the season.

The overtime period capped a wild contest that saw SDSU be outscored 28-13 over the course of the fourth quarter and overtime, five combined turnovers and 1,105 total yards of offense.

SDSU finished the game 2 of 10 on third downs, with the Salukis finishing 7 for 17 on third downs and 3 of 5 on fourth downs. In the final minutes of regulation, SIU had a pair of fourth-down conversions and capped the 14-play drive with a 19-yard pass from Nic Baker to Landon Lenoir with 34 seconds remaining, setting up overtime.

Pierre Strong Jr. provided the big plays for the Jacks in the second half, including an 85-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter. The longest run of Strong’s career put SDSU up 35-21 with 10:18 remaining. SIU answered with a 63-yard touchdown run from Spencer just two plays later from scrimmage, bringing the lead back down to seven points.

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The Jacks had a methodical drive that took up nearly 6 minutes to the SIU 20-yard line but a chance for SDSU to take a 10-point lead with a 37-yard field goal from SDSU’s Cole Frahm was blocked with just over 3 minutes remaining, leading to the Salukis rallying drive to tie the game.

South Dakota State's Tucker Kraft carries the ball during the first half of the Jackrabbits' game with Southern Illinois on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021 at Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)
South Dakota State's Tucker Kraft carries the ball during the first half of the Jackrabbits' game with Southern Illinois on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021 at Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

Overtime marked the first time all year that SDSU has trailed this season, but Saturday’s game represented a stark contrast from how the season started, with SDSU committing three turnovers, a handful of costly penalties and missed a pair of field goals.

The biggest turn in momentum had looked to be late in the third quarter. Southern Illinois had made a 21-yard field goal to cut the SDSU lead to 20-17, but the Jacks were called for an illegal formation defending the kick. That moved the ball to the 2-yard line, leading SIU coach Nick Hill to opt to go for it on fourth and goal.

The Salukis (5-1, 3-0 Valley) had a halfback pass to the quarterback called with alternate QB Javon Williams Jr. holding the ball, when Williams decided to run for the goal line and leaped into the air, where he was hit by the Jacks’ Ryan Van Marel and lost the ball. Waiting nearby was Malik Lofton, who sprinted 97 yards down the SDSU sideline for a touchdown. The Jackrabbits converted the ensuing two-point conversion try, bringing the lead to 28-14 and completing an 11-point swing in favor of SDSU with 3:38 remaining in the third quarter. SIU’s ensuing drive also stalled out inside the SDSU 5-yard line, heading to the fourth quarter.

SDSU got to a fast start, with Strong rushing for a 20-yard touchdown on the seventh play from scrimmage. Cole Frahm had a pair of field goals and Strong had a touchdown pass to Jadon Janke to build a 20-0 lead with a quarter and a half elapsed.

Once SDSU had a 20-0 lead, the Salukis went to work. Nic Baker found Jerron Rollins for a 61-yard touchdown to get SIU on the board. SIU intercepted Oladokun on the next drive, and scored four plays later on a touchdown pass to Landon Lenoir, tightening the game to 20-14 at halftime. Baker finished the game 28 for 45 passing for 359 yards and four touchdowns.

For SDSU, Tucker Kraft had 10 catches for 124 yards for the Jackrabbits, with Jadon Janke tallying 117 yards on three catches and a touchdown. Strong finished with 162 yards on 20 carries, plus 51 receiving yards. Oladokun finished 23 for 31 passing for 358 yards and a touchdown, but he had two interceptions and a fumble.

SIU’s win was the first in seven tries against the Jackrabbits, ending an SDSU win streak in the series that dated back to 2016, including two wins in spring 2021 and an FCS quarterfinal victory over the Salukis, 31-26, in May.

South Dakota State (4-1, 1-1 Valley) hits the road on Oct. 16 to play at Western Illinois.