BROOKINGS, S.D. (GoJacks.com) — South Dakota State scored on big play after big play in the first half to roll past Western Illinois, 45-10, in the Jackrabbits’ home football opener Saturday afternoon at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.
With their win in the annual Dairy Drive game, the Jackrabbits improved to 2-1 both overall and in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. WIU dropped to 0-2.
Freshman quarterback Mark Gronowski led the Jackrabbits on touchdown drives on each of their first two offensive series, scoring on a 22-yard run to open the scoring and then taking advantage of a short field after an interception as Pierre Strong, Jr. scored from a yard out.
Western Illinois executed a fake punt to extend a drive and pull within 14-3 late in the first quarter on a 26-yard field goal by Mason Laramie.
SDSU, however, tacked on four more touchdowns in the second quarter with each of the first three scores covering at least 40 yards. The Jackrabbits first went to the air as Gronowski hooked up with Jadon Janke on a 44-yard touchdown pass deep over the middle.
Then the Jackrabbits turned to the ground as freshman running back Isaiah Davis broke through the line for a 40-yard touchdown and Gronowski followed three minutes later with an 80-yard touchdown run. Gronowski led the Jackrabbits with 120 yards on only four carries with the two touchdowns, while Davis tallied 118 yards on nine carries.
As a team, SDSU finished with 328 yards on the ground and 531 yards of total offense after Gronowski completed 13-of-20 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns. His second touchdown pass of the game was a 12-yarder to Mason Leighton with 41 seconds remaining in the first half and answered WIU’s lone touchdown, a 3-yard pass from Connor Sampson to Dallas Daniels.
The only scoring in the second half came on a 39-yard field goal into the wind by Cole Frahm on SDSU’s opening drive.
The Jackrabbit defense came away with interceptions by Cade Terveer, DyShawn Gales and Joshua Manchigiah. Adam Bock led SDSU with eight tackles.
Sampson completed 29-of-48 passes for 278 yards, with Daniel posting 111 yards on six receptions.
Jaxon Janke led SDSU with four catches for 68 yards, with twin brother Jadon adding three catches for 70 yards.
The Jackrabbits continue home action next Saturday (March 13) by hosting Youngstown State. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.