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Krolikowski leads SDSU’s daunting defensive line

BROOKINGS--South Dakota State University defensive lineman Xavier Ward says don't be fooled by Krockett Krolikowski's baby face. If teams were still getting fooled after a regular season which landed the nose tackle on the Missouri Valley Confere...

South Dakota State defensive tackle Krockett Krolikowski (69) sheds the block attempt of an Arkansas-Pine Bluff lineman during a game on Saturday, Sept. 15 at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings. (Matt Gade / Republic)
South Dakota State defensive tackle Krockett Krolikowski (69) sheds the block attempt of an Arkansas-Pine Bluff lineman during a game on Saturday, Sept. 15 at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings. (Matt Gade / Republic)

BROOKINGS-South Dakota State University defensive lineman Xavier Ward says don't be fooled by Krockett Krolikowski's baby face.

If teams were still getting fooled after a regular season which landed the nose tackle on the Missouri Valley Conference all-newcomer team, they would have taken notice on Saturday at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.

The former Winner High School standout was a key component in shutting down Duquesne University's run game in SDSU's 51-6 dismantling of the Dukes. He had a tackle for loss on the Dukes' first offensive play of the game, leading to three tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks and a blocked extra point which made Ward laugh after the game.

"It was a low ball," a laughing Ward said. "I thought it hit the offensive lineman's back. ... Krockett came back saying he hit it right off his facemask."

Krolikowski's standout game in the snow has been a year in the making, though.

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The redshirt freshman was close to blowing his redshirt last season, though it never happened. That only lit a fire in him as he watched from the stands as the Jackrabbits made a run to the FCS semifinals.

"I think the turning point for me is when you can't be down on the field and you sit in the stands," Krolikowski said. "Right there, as a player you're like 'I don't want to be in the stands anymore, I want to be down there playing.' "

That motivation led to him winning a starting job week one and Ward, a Freeman native, saying he is SDSU's "best defensive tackle right now." Krolikowski's stats back that claim, recording 28 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and two blocked kicks this season.

"Honestly, Krockett just brings good energy," Ward said. "... He just brings a little nastiness."

That nastiness helped the Jackrabbits shut down a running game averaging 186.3 yards per game this season.

Krolikowski credited the team's preparation, which, despite a slippery field, according to Ward, resulted in the Jackrabbits constantly swarming the ball carrier and becoming frequent visitors in the backfield.

As a result, the Dukes only managed 84 yards on 35 carries, while AJ Hines, who ranks third in FCS rushing with 1,499 yards, managed just 21 yards on 10 attempts. SDSU also forced three turnovers, while recording eight tackles for loss and three sacks.

"Our defense had many takeaways and we had great field position in the game," SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier said. "Credit them for a lot of our success."

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Genant doubtful for quarterfinals

In a game with few mistakes, SDSU still took a blow to its offensive line when Parkston native and current starting center Wes Genant left the game with a shoulder injury in the second half.

"Losing Wes later on in the game was kind of hard," SDSU running back Mikey Daniel said. "But (offensive line) coach (Jason) Eck does a great job making sure the next guy's up and is ready to go."

After the game, Stiegelmeier said he didn't know if it was related to a previous shoulder injury, though Genant's unlikely to play in the Jackrabbits' FCS quarterfinal game against No. 4 Kennesaw State (Georgia) on Saturday.

Stiegelmeier reiterated Daniel's "next man up" message in terms of Jack Domandle filling his role. That said, it could come with some bumps early in the week.

"(Genant) is a very smart player and a very calming guy," Stiegelmeier said. "I think it'll affect us a little bit at the start of the week, but I think they'll rally around Jack and we'll be fine."

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