Third-ranked South Dakota State held Long Island University to 123 yards of total offense en route to a methodical 38-3 victory Saturday night in the Sixth Annual Dairy Drive at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.
The Jackrabbits, who were playing their home opener, improved to 1-1 overall. LIU, which was playing its first game as a member of the Football Championship Subdivision, dropped to 0-1.
With starting quarterback J'Bore Gibbs sidelined by injury, SDSU turned to Kanin Nelson under center. Taking over after a short punt, Nelson led the Jackrabbits to the end zone on their second drive of the game, capping a seven-play, 28-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with 4 minutes, 32 seconds to play in the first quarter.
LIU took advantage of a short field of its own to get on the board with just under 10 minutes to play in the first half on a 27-yard field goal by Briant DeFelice.
The momentum swung in SDSU's favor after the next Shark possession as Jaxon Janke fielded a bouncing punt at his own 23, broke through the initial line of defense and followed a convoy of blockers down the right side for a 77-yard return for a touchdown. Janke, who returned three other punts in the game, became the first Jackrabbit in the Division I era with more than 100 punt return yards in a game as he finished the night with 111 yards on his four attempts.
SDSU upped the lead to 21-3 just before halftime as Pierre Strong, Jr. scored from a yard out following the first of two Jackrabbit takeaways in the game. Freshman defensive end Quinton Hicks gave the Jackrabbits the ball at the LIU 31 with a strip sack and fumble recovery.
The Jackrabbits put the game away in the third quarter with a pair of touchdowns 19 seconds apart. First, Mikey Daniel scored from a yard out. After Christian Rozeboom intercepted a pass at the LIU 34 on the first play of the ensuing drive, Nelson connected with Blake Kunz on the first Jackrabbit play to increase the lead to 35-3.
Chase Vinatieri capped the scoring with a 22-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter.
The Jackrabbit defense limited LIU to nearly identical yardage totals in each half — 62 yards in the first half and 61 in the second half. Rozeboom paced SDSU with eight tackles plus a forced fumble, with fellow linebacker Seven Wilson adding six stops.
SDSU finished with 324 yards of total offense as Nelson completed 6-of-8 passes for 108 yards in his first collegiate start. Strong led the ground game with 55 yards on 12 carries, while freshman Devin Blakley added 52 yards on five carries.
Cade Johnson was the leading receiver for the Jackrabbits with three catches for 69 yards.
For the Sharks, Tim Marinan picked up 29 yards on 13 carries and also was the team's leading receiver with three catches for 22 yards. Quarterback Clay Beathard ended the night 9-of-20 passing for 71 yards.
The Jackrabbits continue their homestand by hosting Drake on Sept. 14. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.
Saturday's game marked the first-ever meeting between the Jackrabbits and LIU
SDSU improved to 19-4 in home openers under head coach John Stiegelmeier
The Jackrabbits have won all six Dairy Drive games
SDSU upped its record at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium to 21-2 since the facility opened in 2016, and has won 12 in a row at home dating back to 2017
The Jackrabbits held an opponent without a touchdown for the first time since a record-setting 90-6 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Sept. 15, 2018
SDSU limited Long Island to eight first downs — four in each half
The previous high for punt return yards in a game by a Jackrabbit in the Division I era was 98 on three returns by Paul Aanonson, versus North Dakota State on Nov. 17, 2007 (included a 94-yard return for touchdown)
Rozeboom's interception was the seventh of his career — most among active Jackrabbit players
Attendance was 10,153