South Dakota State powers to road win at Villanova, reaches FCS semifinals

Jacks score final 21 points, earn 11th win of the season

South Dakota State University football. (Republic file photo)

VILLANOVA, Pa. — Twenty-one unanswered points in the second half helped the unseeded South Dakota State Jackrabbits football team keep its playoff run alive for another week with a 35-21 win over No. 5 Villanova.

It is the fourth trip to the semifinals for the Jacks in the last five editions of the FCS playoffs. The Jackrabbits (11-3) will travel to Bozeman, Montana to play No. 8 Montana State in the FCS semifinals. The Bobcats defeated top-seeded Sam Houston 42-19 Saturday in Huntsville, Texas, ending the defending national champions’ 22-game win streak. The semifinal game will be played at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 18.

A mammoth effort from Isaiah Davis led the Jacks to the victory, rushing 25 times for 174 yards and three touchdowns. Davis’ touchdown run with 8:37 remaining in the third quarter tied the game at 21, and answered a quick three-and-out from the Wildcats (10-3) to open the second half.

SDSU took the lead after another short drive for VU, with Jaxon Janke making his second touchdown catch of the game on a deep ball from quarterback Chris Oladokun that gave SDSU the lead for good with 2:17 remaining in the third quarter at 28-21.

After a key fourth-down stop at the SDSU 38-yard line with 12 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, SDSU put together a 67-yard drive that was capped with a 2-yard touchdown run by Davis to put SDSU ahead by 14 points and seal the second road win in as many weeks for the Jacks.


“We played an unbelievable second half,” SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier said in his postgame radio interview. “That ability to come out and put the first half behind them. … My heart is smiling.”

In all, the Jacks finished with 266 rushing yards, the most allowed by Villanova all season. Reserve running back Amar Johnson rushed for 64 yards on 14 carries. Pierre Strong Jr., the nation’s leader in rushing yards entering the quarterfinals, was limited to three carries and 17 yards after leaving the game with a first-quarter injury.

SDSU outgained Villanova 418-378, with the Wildcats gaining 271 yards on the ground but committing two turnovers in the game to SDSU’s zero.

" I think this team is made for it, after all we’ve been through the last year, I think we were built for it," SDSU linebacker Logan Backhaus said of the team's postseason run.

Davis scored the game’s first score nearly 9 minutes into the game with a 24-yard touchdown run. Villanova answered on the next drive with a 36-yard touchdown catch to receiver Rayjoun Pringle from quarterback Dan Smith. The fast scoring continued in the second quarter with Janke making a 10-yard touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone from Oladokun and Smith rushing for a 7-yard touchdown to even the game at 14 with 4:18 left in the half.

Smith also found Jaaron Hayek for a 55-yard touchdown strike after a blown coverage from the Jackrabbit defense to put Villanova in the lead for the first and what would be the only time of the day with 44 seconds before halftime.

Oladokun finished the game with 152 yards on 11 for 19 passing, and both touchdowns to Jaxon Janke, who had 119 yards on six catches.

Scoring summary


First quarter

SDSU: Isaiah Davis 24 run (Cole Frahm kick), 6:40.

VU: Rayjoun Pringle 36 pass from Dan Smith (Cole Bunce kick), 2:20.

Second quarter

SDSU: Jaxon Janke 10 pass from Chris Oladokun (Frahm kick), 8:09

VU: Smith 7 run (Bunce kick), 4:18.

VU: Jaaron Hayek 55 pass from Smith (Bunce kick), 0:44.

Third quarter


SDSU: Davis 2 run (Frahm kick), 8:37.

SDSU: Janke 38 pass from Oladokun (Frahm kick), 2:17.

Fourth quarter

SDSU: Davis 2 run (Frahm kick), 8:13.

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
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