BROOKINGS, S.D. (AP)Mark Gronowski passed to Jaxon Janke for the go-ahead touchdown and South Dakota State scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to break away from Holy Cross for a 42-21 win on Saturday in the FCS quarterfinals.
The top-seeded Jackrabbits (12-1), on a school-record 12-game win streak after losing to Iowa 7-3 in their opener, will play fourth-seeded Montana State in the semifinals. The Bobcats beat South Dakota State 31-17 in the semifinals in Bozeman, Mont., last year. This year’s semifinal will be in Brookings.
The eighth-seeded Crusaders (12-1) gave the Jackrabbits a tough test through three quarters behind quarterback Matthew Sluka, who rushed for a career-high 212 yards on 26 carries. It was Sluka’s 36-yard run that set up Peter Oliver’s 1-yard TD plunge to tie the game at 21-all.
But the Jackrabbits dominated the fourth quarter.
”We had some big pass plays, and then Isaiah Davis is a heck of a running back, the fat guys up front got excited about running the ball and we played our kind of football. Holy Cross is a really good team. This is an exciting win for us,” Jackrabbits coach John Stiegelmeier said in an on-field interview with ESPN after the game.
Gronowski passed for 177 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 47 more yards and a TD. Davis had 154 yards on 20 carries with a score, his eighth straight game with a rushing TD and his seventh game this season with 100-plus yards.
After Derek Ng missed his second field goal of the game on the first play of the fourth quarter, the Jackrabbits drove 78 yards on nine plays with Janke making a catch at the Holy Cross 12, dodging one tackler and dragging another into the end zone for a 28-21 lead.
A 13-yard sack blunted the Crusaders’ next possession and the Jackrabbits added an insurance touchdown on Gronowski’s 18-yard keeper around the left end. A 27-yard run by Davis during which he tossed a defender aside with a stiff-arm was the key play on the drive.
Gronowski threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Jadon Janke, twin brother of Jaxon, in the final minute.
The Jackrabbits went into the half ahead 21-14 after a Sluka pass deflected off Ayir Asante and into the hands of Jason Freeman, who returned it 37 yards for the touchdown with just over a minute left.
Holy Cross had taken a 14-6 second-quarter lead after Sluka handed off to Tyler Purdy who then tossed a jump pass to Sean Morris, all alone in the backfield for a 27-yard score. Davis’ 3-yard TD tied it.
In the first quarter, Sluka found an opening in the middle of the Jackrabbits line and sprinted 56 yards for the game’s first points.
South Dakota State came back with two short Hunter Dustman field goals to trail 7-6, the first coming after a Holy Cross onside kick went out of bounds and the second set up on Gronowski’s 44-yard pass to Jaxon Janke to the 9-yard line.
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