BROOKINGS- South Dakota State scored three second-half touchdowns and the Jackrabbit defense pitched a shutout over the final 30 minutes en route to a 28-10 Hobo Day victory over Southern Illinois Saturday afternoon at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.
The third-ranked Jackrabbits improved to 4-1 overall, while SIU dropped to 2-3 on the season. The game marked the Missouri Valley Football Conference opener for both squads.
The Salukis capitalized on the lone SDSU turnover of the game to put the first points on the board — and the first first-quarter points allowed by the Jackrabbits this season. After recovering a fumble at the Jackrabbit 20-yard line, Griffin Cerra booted a 31-yard field goal with five minutes remaining in the opening stanza for a 3-0 lead.
SDSU responded quickly as STATS FCS Walter Payton Award candidate Cade Johnson slipped through a would-be tackle after catching a pass from J'Bore Gibbs and rolled 58 yards for a touchdown and a 6-3 Jackrabbit lead. The extra point was blocked.
It was Johnson's fourth touchdown of the season — all of which have come in the last three games.
The game turned into a defensive tussle until the closing minutes of the first half. SDSU put together a nine-play, 77-yard drive that chewed up nearly nine minutes before Chase Vinatieri capped the march with a 39-yard field goal.
SIU put together its best drive of the day with two minutes to go in the first half as it went 77 yards on nine plays, taking a 10-9 lead with 12 seconds to play on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Karé Lyles to Nigel Kilby.
The Jackrabbits continued their third-quarter dominance this season,
holding SIU without a first down in the quarter. Meanwhile, SDSU took the lead at 15-10 with its second big play of the game as sophomore running back Pierre Strong, Jr. cut back near the line of scrimmage and ran through and past the Saluki defense for a 64-yard touchdown run.
Strong would finish the day with 229 rushing yards while tying a career high with 20 carries. As a team, the Jackrabbits ran for 297 yards and ended the day with a 393-215 advantage in total offense.
The redshirt freshman duo of Gibbs and Jaxon Janke accounted for two Jackrabbit touchdowns in the fourth quarter on pass plays covering 12 and 4 yards. Janke's second touchdown came after Michael Griffin II intercepted a pass and returned it to the SIU 30.
Gibbs completed 10-of-15 attempts for 96 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. Janke caught three passes for 20 yards, with Johnson tallying a pair of receptions for 66 yards.
For SIU, Lyles ended the afternoon 13-of-27 for 108 yards and was sacked five times. The Jackrabbit defense also limited the Salukis to 1-of-14 on third-down attempts and 1-for-3 on fourth-down conversions.
Logan Backhaus, who recorded the first of the sacks, registered a game-high 11 tackles. Levi Brown added seven stops, including a pair of tackles for loss, and Christian Rozeboom added six tackles.
Avante Cox caught five passes for 54 yards, including a 31-yard reception that set up the Salukis' touchdown. Romeir Elliott was the top ground-gainer for SIU with 71 yards on 11 carries.
The Jackrabbits travel next Saturday (Oct. 12) to Youngstown State. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. Eastern (5 p.m. Central) at Stambaugh Stadium in Youngstown, Ohio. The game will be televised on Sioux Falls-based My UTV.
SDSU leads the all-time series, 7-3, and has won the last four matchups
The Jackrabbits improved to 62-39-5 in 106 Hobo Day games
SDSU upped its record in MVFC openers to 5-7
The Jackrabbits extended their home winning streak to 15 games and are 24-2 in four seasons at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium
SDSU has outscored the opposition 63-7 in the third quarter this season
The Jackrabbits have scored in 16 consecutive quarters and 18 of 20 quarters in 2019
SDSU now is allowing 11.6 points per game and has only given up a total of seven second-half points over the last four contests
Vinatieri established a new SDSU kick scoring record with 322 points (41 field goals, 199 extra points), surpassing the previous mark of 321 points by Parker Douglass from 2004-07
Vinatieri is 16-for-16 in his career on field goals between 30 and 39 yards
Strong eclipsed the 200-yard mark for the second time in his career and topped the century mark for the second time this season and seventh time in his career
Strong has scored a touchdown in 10 of the last 11 games dating back to the 2018 season
Rozeboom moved into third place on the SDSU career tackles chart with 398, passing J.D. Alexander (393 tackles from 1971-74)
Johnson moved into a tie with JaRon Harris (2005-08) for fourth place in career receiving touchdowns at SDSU with 24 and also topped the 2,000-yard mark for his career (2,023)
Attendance was 13,776