Coyotes, Jackrabbits advance to FCS quarterfinals

December 4, 2023

BROOKINGS, S.D. (AP) — Isaiah Davis ran for three touchdowns, including a 42-yard dash to open the second half, and top-seeded South Dakota State turned in a dominant performance to shutout Mercer 41-0 Saturday in a Football Championship Series second-round game.

The defending national champions, ranked No. 1 the entire season, had a first-round bye. The Jackrabbits advance to face the winner of Saturday’s game between Youngstown State and eighth-seeded Villanova.

South Dakota State (12-0) took the opening kick and drove 56 yards in 10 plays to set up Hunter Dustman’s 26-yard field goal and had touchdowns on its next three possessions of the half to take a 24-0 lead. Davis scored from the 4 to open the second quarter to cap a 13-play, 74-yard drive that used more than seven minutes of the first quarter. Mark Gronowski found Jaxon Janke with a seven-yard TD and Davis capped a six-play, 66-yard drive with a six-yard run with :21 left in the half.

Meanwhile, the Jackrabbits held Mercer (9-4) to just 62 yards of total offense in the first half, holding the Bears without a first down until midway through the second quarter on a drive that South Dakota State stopped on downs at its 32-yard line. The Bears got back-to-back stops in the third quarter, picking off a Gronowski pass near midfield, and after Carter Peevy threw an interception at the South Dakota State 10-yard line, Mercer forced a punt.

Mercer had just six first downs in the game and was just 1 of 10 on third down conversions while being held to just 151 total yards of offense.

South Dakota State rolled to 571 yards on offense, capped by an 80-yard dash for a touchdown by Angel Johnson with just under six minutes to play.

Gronowski was 11 of 16 passing for 158 yards and a touchdown with an interception. Davis carried 13 times for 117 yards and Amar Johnson carried 11 for 107. Angel Johnson had three carries for 80 yards as the Jackrabbits piled up 346 yards on the ground. Jaxon Janke had seven catches for 106 yards.

Peevy was 14 of 22 passing for 75 yards with two interceptions for Mercer.

Meanwhile in Vermillion, Aidan Bouman threw two touchdown passes, Charles Pierre rushed for 123 yards and No. 3-seed South Dakota defeated Sacramento State 34-24 on Saturday in the second round of the FCS playoffs.

South Dakota had three quick-strike touchdowns in the second quarter. First, Josiah Ganues intercepted a Kaiden Bennett pass, setting up the Coyotes at the Sac State 33. Three plays later, Bouman threw to Javion Phelps for an 18-yard touchdown. Two plays later, Mi’Quise Grace scooped a fumble by Bennett and raced 56 yards for another touchdown. On the second play after a Sacramento State touchdown drive, Bouman connected with JJ Galbreath on a 75-yard touchdown pass.

Marcus Fulcher’s second 2-yard touchdown run of the second quarter got the Hornets within 24-14 at halftime. Travis Theis added a 3-yard touchdown run for South Dakota in the third quarter for a 31-14 lead. The teams exchanged field goals in the fourth quarter before Sacramento State wrapped up the scoring with a 3-yard TD pass from Carson Camp to Jared Gipson.

Bouman was 11-of-16 passing for 174 yards and the Coyotes (10-2) racked up 368 yards of total offense.

Camp was 14-of-23 passing for 168 yards and the Hornets (8-5) had 350 total yards.

South Dakota, which has defeated five top 25 teams this season, advances to the quarterfinals and will play North Dakota State, which defeated Montana State 35-34 in overtime on Saturday.

It was Sacramento State’s fourth consecutive appearance in the second round and the Hornets reached the quarterfinals last year.