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South Dakota State powers past UC Davis in FCS playoffs opening round

Jackrabbits advance to face No. 4 Sacramento State on Dec. 4.

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South Dakota State running back Isaiah Davis carries the ball during an FCS playoff opening-round game against UC Davis Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021 at Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)
Marcus Traxler / Mitchell Republic

BROOKINGS -- A playoff-record day rushing and the most interceptions in a game in 69 years defense helped the South Dakota State Jackrabbits to an opening-round victory in the FCS playoffs Saturday afternoon over the University of California, Davis 56-24 in front of 3,681 fans at Dykhouse Stadium.

The Jackrabbits rushed for 446 yards and Dalys Beaman had three interceptions for the SDSU (9-3) defense to secure a trip to the West Coast for the FCS playoffs second round on Saturday, Dec. 4 at fourth-seeded Sacramento State -- another Big Sky Conference foe -- at 8 p.m. Central time.

Sophomore running back Isaiah Davis rushed for a career-high 217 yards on 15 carries and backfield mate Pierre Strong Jr. had 185 yards on 10 carries, with both scoring touchdowns as SDSU broke open a 28-17 game at halftime with 28 straight points in the second half, including a pair of interceptions returned for touchdowns.

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South Dakota State defensive tackle Xavier Ward rushes while getting blocked by UC Davis' Connor Pettek during an FCS playoff opening round game Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021 at Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

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The latter of those was from Beanum, the sophomore from Omaha, who made an interception and weaved his way back 58 yards for a final touchdown flourish for the Jackrabbits, who opened their 10th straight FCS playoff appearance.

“A lot of things went our way that allowed the score to be like it was,” SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier said. “Really excited about the work our players put in and how they took where we ended up in the bracket and said, ‘Let’s go win a game.’”

A 2-yard Pierre Strong Jr. touchdown run with 4:59 remaining in the opening quarter put SDSU ahead 7-3. The Aggies capitalized on a muffed punt to take a brief lead at 10-7 after a touchdown pass from Miles Hastings to C.J. Hutton early in the second quarter.

But from there, SDSU was mostly in control. The Jacks scored 21 points in the span of 5 minutes and 10 seconds in the second quarter, turning a 10-7 deficit into a 28-10 lead. Isaiah Davis had an 18-yard touchdown run to put SDSU back in front and a pair of quick scores after Strong Jr. threw to quarterback Chris Oladokun on a trick play from 10 yards out and Jadon Janke caught a 33-yard touchdown pass from Oladokun to give SDSU a commanding lead.

The Jackrabbits rushed for 275 yards on 23 carries in the first half, good for nearly 12 yards per carry. For the game, SDSU averaged more than 11 yards per carry.

“We just tried to do the things we’ve done all year, run the ball down their throat, be the more physical team, win our one-on-one battles,” Davis said. “Today, we were just improving and we were building our confidence and we were able to show it.”

SDSU’s defense forced four turnovers in the first 40 minutes, with the third of those coming via an Adam Bock interception on a deflected pass and running it back 39 yards for a touchdown to put SDSU up 35-17 with just more than 3 minutes elapsed in the third quarter. Dalys Beaman finished the game with two interceptions for the Jacks in the second half.

“We talked with our corners that there would be a lot of opportunities with how the quarterback likes to do quick throws and what he likes to do and where he likes to look,” Beaman said. “We just knew that we had a really good opportunity of picking the ball off and making plays on the ball.”

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SDSU’s six interceptions in the game ties a school record that dates back to a pair of games in the 1950s (1950 against Augustana and 1952 against St. Cloud State). The rushing effort snapped a benchmark set in SDSU’s first home playoff game in the FCS era in a 58-10 win over Eastern Illinois in 2012, when the Jacks had 434 yards on the ground.

Scoring summary

First quarter

UCD: Isaiah Gomez 32 field goal, 12:28.

SDSU: Pierre Strong Jr. 2 run (Cole Frahm kick), 4:59.

Second quarter

UCD: C.J. Hutton 4 pass from Miles Hastings (Gomez kick), 12:57.

SDSU: Isaiah Davis 18 run (Frahm kick), 11:19.

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SDSU: Chris Oladokun 10 pass from Strong (Frahm kick), 7:41.

SDSU: Jadon Janke 33 pass from Oladokun (Frahm kick), 6:09.

UCD: Ulonzo Gilliam Jr. 2 run (Gomez kick), 0:52.

Third quarter

SDSU: Adam Bock 39 interception return (Frahm kick), 11:44.

SDSU: Zach Heins 3 pass from Oladokun (Frahm kick), 3:55.

Fourth quarter

SDSU: Gus Miller fumble recovery in end zone on Strong run (Frahm kick), 9:59.

SDSU: Dalys Beanum 58 interception return, (Frahm kick), 8:46.

UCD: Hunter Rodrigues 15 run (Gomez kick), 4:01.

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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