BROOKINGS, S.D. (KWSN)— South Dakota State forced six turnovers and the Jackrabbits found just enough offense to defeat Southeastern Louisiana, 34-26, Saturday night in the 47th Annual Beef Bowl at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium.
Playing before a crowd of 13,456, the sixth-ranked Jackrabbits improved to 3-0 overall. Southeastern Louisiana, which was receiving votes in this week’s Sports Network media poll, dropped to 1-2 overall.
The Lions controlled much of the first half and led 10-0 after the first quarter. SLU took advantage of a short field to score on its opening drive. After taking over at the SDSU 36-yard line after a short punt, the Lions needed only five plays to find the end zone. A 20-yard run by quarterback Bryan Bennett put SLU at the 1, setting up a rushing touchdown by Rasheed Harrell.
SLU made it 10-0 on its next possession as Seth Sebastian capped a nine-play, 78-yard drive with a 35-yard field goal.
After recovering a fumble deep in their own territory, the Jackrabbits pulled to within 10-7 midway through the second quarter with a seven-play, 90-yard touchdown drive. Walter Payton Award candidate Zach Zenner rambled 59 yards on a swing pass on the opening play of the drive, then scored on a 2-yard touchdown run.
SLU made it 13-7 in the closing seconds of the first half on a 36-yard field goal by Sebastian, then extended its lead to 19-7 by scoring on the opening drive of the second half. Bennett completed all three of his pass attempts for 41 yards before scoring from a yard out. The Lions missed the two-point conversion.
The Jackrabbits began their comeback on the first play from scrimmage on the ensuing drive as Zenner broke through the line for a 75-yard touchdown run. Zenner had been bottled up in the first half as each of first three carries resulted in losses and he was held to six net yards on seven carries.
SDSU gained its first lead of the night late in the third quarter on a broken play. After converting on a pair of third-down attempts, Jackrabbit quarterback Austin Sumner picked up a bobbled snap and weaved his way through and around the Southeastern Louisiana defense for a 20-yard touchdown run. SDSU also missed the two-point conversion to keep the score at 20-19.
The Jackrabbit defense asserted itself in the fourth quarter by forcing four turnovers and a punt.
SDSU appeared to put the game on ice by scoring a pair of touchdowns 2 minutes and 23 seconds apart. A 10-yard touchdown run by Zenner with 4:28 to play gave SDSU a 27-19 lead, and redshirt freshman linebacker Dallas Brown picked off a pass and scored from 52 yards out to made the score 34-19 with 2:25 remaining.
However, the Southeastern Louisiana special teams unit kept the Lions’ hopes alive. Xavier Roberson fielded a short kickoff following the Brown interception return and rolled down the left sideline for an 82-yard touchdown.
The Lions then recovered the onside kick and were near midfield before Brown stepped in front of another Bennett pass for his second interception of the game to finally seal the SDSU victory.
Penalties also played a crucial role — SLU was flagged 12 times for 115 yards, while the Jackrabbits committed only four penalties for 34 yards.
Southeastern Louisiana held a 506-345 advantage in total offense. Bennett accounted for 395 of those yards, completing 27-of-38 passes for 322 yards and rushing 19 times for 73 yards. Tony McCrea led the Lion receiving corps with seven catches for 158 yards.
For SDSU, Zenner gained 128 on the ground on 17 carries and added 60 receiving yards on three catches. Sumner was 14-of-25 passing for 187 yards, with Jason Schneider leading Jackrabbit pass catchers with four receptions for 34 yards.
T.J. Lally led the Jackrabbit defense with 11 tackles,followed by a career-high 10 from fellow linebacker R.C. Kilgore. Andrew Brown, who was named the Outstanding Player of the Beef Bowl, contributed six tackles (one for loss), forced a fumble and recovered a fumble.
Theo Alexander led SLU with seven tackles.
The Jackrabbits close out the non-conference portion of their schedule Sept. 21 at Nebraska. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb.
NOTES: SDSU has won both meetings against SoutheasternLouisiana … the Jackrabbits improved to 9-2 against Southland Conference opponents since moving to the Division I ranks at the start of the 2004 season … SDSU has a 27-20 all-time record in the Beef Bowl … the Jackrabbits won their ninth consecutive home game and improved to 26-8 in night games at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium … SDSU also upped its mark at CAS to 39-11 in the Division I era … Sumner moved into third place in career passing yards at SDSU with 5,495, moving past both Andy Rennerfeldt (5,377 yards from 1997-2000) and Brad Nelson (5,382 yards from 2011-04) on Saturday … Zenner topped the 3,000-yard rushing mark for his career and took over fifth place on the SDSU career charts with 3,054 yards, passing both Cory Koenig (2,990 yards from 2004-07) and Les Tuma (3,018 yards from 1970-73) … the Jackrabbits have scored in 11 of 12 quarters so far this season … SDSU has yet to turn the ball over on offense this season, while forcing 12 … the last Jackrabbit player to record two interceptions in a game was linebacker Ross Shafrath — in the 2012 Beef Bowl.
Courtesy: South Dakota State University