BROOKINGS, SD – Top-seeded South Dakota State turned the tide with a goal-line stand and ensuing 67-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter by quarterback Mark Gronowski to turn back Southern Illinois, 31-26, in a Football Championship Subdivision playoff quarterfinal Sunday night at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.
The Jackrabbits, who defeated SIU for the second time this season, improved to 7-1 overall and will host Delaware in a semifinal game at 11 a.m. Saturday (May 8), with television coverage on ESPN. SIU had its season come to an end with a 6-4 record.
SDSU overcame a 20-7 first-half deficit after the Salukis scored on four of their five first-half possessions. The Jackrabbits opened the scoring on the first drive of the game, capping a five-play, 60-yard drive on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Gronowski to Jadon Janke.
The Salukis trailed early, 7-0, but reeled of 20-straight points behind a bold gameplan that featured a mix of Labanowitz short passes with some razzle-dazzle.
SIU offensive lineman ZeVeyon Furcon plunged in from a yard out on the Salukis’ first drive to finish off an 11-play, 75-yard drive, and Avante Cox gave the Salukis a 14-7 advantage on an 11-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter.
Southern kept on rolling with an 11-yard double reverse to Avante Cox for a TD, and a pair of Nico Gualdoni field goals to go up, 20-7.
SIU had first-and-goal at the Jackrabbit 1-yard line late in the third quarter and came away with nothing. After an incomplete pass between two rushes that netted no yards, Furcon was stuffed just short of the goal on fourth down on the first play of the fourth quarter to keep the score at 20-17.
The Jackrabbits converted on third-and-8 from their own 3-yard line on a 24-yard pass from Gronowski to Jaxon Janke, then three plays later Gronowski stepped through a tackle at the line of scrimmage and sprinted 67 yards to the end zone.
After SIU lost a fumble on a bad pitch on its next drive, SDSU again quickly capitalized to build a 31-20 lead. A Gronowski-to-Blake Kunz pass went for 30 yards to the SIU 13 and Isaiah Davis carried in from 4 yards out three plays later for the score.
- Stadium: Dana J. Dykhouse
- Location: Brookings, S.D.
- Attendance: 3547
- Duration: 3:01
SIU: Labanowitz, Sto (247 PASS); Strong, Justin (38 RUSH); Lenoir, Landon (129 REC);
SDSU: Mark Gronowski (183 PASS); Mark Gronowski (142 RUSH); Jadon Janke (49 REC);