South Dakota State hangs on in FCS playoffs, advances to meet Villanova in quarterfinals
Jackrabbits improve to 10-3 on the season with 24-19 win
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — South Dakota State scored the first 24 points of the game and then had to hold on late for a win at No. 4-seeded Sacramento State Saturday night in the second round of the FCS Playoffs for a 24-19 victory.
The victory means SDSU (10-3) advances to the quarterfinal round and takes on fifth-seeded Villanova (10-2) at 1 p.m. Central time on Saturday, Dec. 11.
SDSU’s victory represented the only road team and unseeded team to win in the second round of the FCS playoffs, and the Jacks are among the final eight teams in the FCS postseason for the fifth time in the last six seasons.
“I’m really proud of our team,” SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier said in his postgame radio interview. “It ended up being a battle and they’re winners in every sense. I’m excited for them.”
Sacramento State (9-3) scored with 2:33 left to cut the Jackrabbit lead down to 24-19 but failed on a two-point conversion. SDSU then recovered an onside kick and ran the clock down to a fourth-and-1 situation at the Hornets’ 39-yard line with 1:24 remaining. From there, SDSU used a trick play with quarterback Chris Oladokun walking over to the sideline as if the Jacks would call timeout and running back Isaiah Davis took the snap and went up the middle and climbed through the line of scrimmage for two yards and the game-clinching first down.
“Sac State is a very good football team,” Stiegelmeier said of the contrast in halves. “So maybe it was a little too easy of a start or they didn’t play as well but it became a battle. We just have to play our best every play.”
SDSU did not score in the second half, was outscored 16-0 and the Jacks held to just 68 yards of offense and 43 yards on 20 carries after rushing for 162 yards on 22 carries in the first 30 minutes of the game. But the Jacks built a lead in the first half on the strength of its running game and forcing the host Hornets into mistakes on SDSU’s side of the field.
The Jackrabbits scored on their opening drive after stopping Sacramento State with a Pierre Strong touchdown run and it was 10-0 before the Hornets could mount a serious drive into SDSU territory only to see Don Gardner pick off a pass in the end zone late in the first quarter. A pair of Davis touchdown runs in the second quarter put the Jackrabbits up 24-0, bookended around a second Hornets thrown interception, picked off by Cade Terveer. A late Sac State field goal on the final play of the first half cut the halftime margin to 24-3.
“I thought Chris Oladokun did a phenomenal job of running and passing but Isaiah and Pierre, what a tandem and it starts with the big guys up front,” Stiegelmeier said.
From there, SDSU’s next four drives in the second half all ended in punts, including a three-and-out after Sacramento State had turned the ball over on downs at the Jackrabbit 41-yard-line early in the fourth quarter.
The Hornets had a 48-yard field goal by Kyle Sentkowski with just under 10 minutes left to cut the margin to 11 points. Sacramento State later got another touchdown on a 1-yard pass from Asher O’Hara to Isaiah Gable to get within five, setting up the final moments of the game that allowed SDSU to seal it.
Davis finished with 19 carries and 108 yards and the two touchdowns and Strong had 73 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown. SDSU ran for 205 yards for the game and finished with 363 total yards of offense, with Oladokun finishing 12 for 23 passing for 158 yards.
SDSU did not turn the ball over in the game, but the Hornets finished with 480 yards, including 375 yards passing and 28 first downs. Each of the Hornets’ scoring drives lasted at least eight plays, with the touchdown drives each taking 13 plays and traversing at least 87 yards.
SDSU: Pierre Strong Jr. 5 run (Cole Frahm kick), 10:28.
SDSU: Frahm 45 field goal, 4:25.
SDSU: Isaiah Davis 7 run (Frahm kick), 9:34.
SDSU: Davis 6 run (Frahm kick), 1:43.
SAC: Kyle Sentkowski 44 field goal, 0:00.
SAC: Pierre Williams 3 pass from Jake Dunniway (Sentkowski kick), 5:27.
SAC: Sentkowski 48 field goal, 9:49.
SAC: Isaiah Gable 3 pass from Asher O’Hara (pass failed), 2:33.