Zach Zenner rushed for the most yards by a South Dakota State running back in the Division I era and the Jackrabbit defense turned in a dominant performance as SDSU got into the win column with a 31-14 victory over Southeastern Louisiana Saturday night at Strawberry Stadium.
The Jackrabbits improved to 1-1 overall, while Southeastern Louisiana fell to 0-2.
After failing on a fourth-down attempt in SELU territory on the opening drive of the game, the Jackrabbits drew first blood on their next possession as Justin Syrovatka kicked a 23-yard field goal to cap a 12-play, 80-yard drive.
A 39-yard punt return by Dom Wright and ensuing sideline infraction penalty against the Lions gave SDSU the ball at the SELU to start the second quarter. Three plays later, Austin Sumner hit Seth Daughters in the left corner of the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown.
SDSU made it 13-0 midway through the second quarter on a 22-yard field goal by Syrovatka that was set up by a 13-yard run by Zenner – one of six runs of at least 10 yards in the game by the sophomore from Eagan, Minn.
Meanwhile, SELU had trouble putting together anything on offense in the first half. The Lions went three-and-out in each of their first four possessions and again were held to three offensive plays before missing a 34-yard field goal after taking over deep in Jackrabbit territory following an interception.
SELU finally gained an offensive first down in the final minute of the first half, only to have Doug Peete record his second sack of the game on the next play to stifle the drive.
The Lions put together their lone offensive scoring drive on their first possession of the second half. SELU strung together five first downs, capping a 13-play, 75-yard drive with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Nathan Stanley to Michael Chaney.
The Jackrabbits answered right back with a touchdown of their own, taking advantage of a 46-yard kickoff return to midfield by Trevor Tiefenthaler. The drive was in danger of stalling, however, as the Jackrabbits faced third-and-16, but Sumner avoided pressure and stepped up to fire a 46-yard scoring strike to Jason Schneider in the right corner of the end zone. Sumner then connected with tight end Vince Benedetto for the two-point conversion.
SDSU extended the lead to 28-7 on its next possession as Zenner broke through the line for a 35-yard touchdown that put the Jackrabbits up 28-7 with 3 minutes, 8 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Syrovatka capped the Jackrabbit scoring with his third field goal of the night, a 26-yarder with 12:03 to play in the game.
SELU's final score came on defense as T'Darryl Grays scooped up a Zenner fumble and raced 25 yards for a touchdown.
Zenner finished the game with 278 yards on 34 carries as the Jackrabbits rushed for 305 yards as a team. Reggie Gandy, seeing his first collegiate action, carried 14 times for 32 yards.
Sumner completed 8-of-18 passes for 134 yards as the Jackrabbits held a 439-179 advantage in total offense.
The Jackrabbit defense held Southeastern Louisiana to minus-11 yards rushing, recording eight tackles for loss, including five sacks. Doug Peete recorded four tackles for loss, with two sacks, while Ross Shafrath recorded a team-high eight tackles with two pass breakups.
Stanley finished the game 22-of-43 passing for 190 yards to pace Southeastern Louisiana. Stanley Moore caught five passes for 34 yards.
Kaleb Muse recorded a game-high 14 tackles to lead the Lions.
The Jackrabbits open the home portion of their schedule Sept. 15, hosting UC Davis in the 17th Annual Cereal Bowl. Kickoff is 2 p.m. at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium.
Courtesy: SDSU Athletics