Oct. 24, 2009

Courtesy of South Dakota State

South Dakota State continued its home mastery of Missouri Valley Football Conference opponents, defeating sixth-ranked Northern Iowa 24-14 Saturday afternoon at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium.

A Hobo Day crowd of 15,523 — the fourth-largest in stadium history — watched as the 11th-ranked Jackrabbits improved to 6-1 overall and kept pace with Southern Illinois atop the Missouri Valley Football Conference standings at 5-0. SDSU also stayed perfect at home against league opponents since joining the league last season, upping its record to 7-0.

UNI dropped its second consecutive game, falling to 5-3 overall, 3-2 in league play.

SDSU took advantage of early Panther mistakes to build an early lead. On the first play from scrimmage, UNI fumbled the handoff, with Jackrabbit linebacker Jimmy Rogers falling on the loose ball at UNI 37. Seven plays later, Peter Reifenrath put the Jackrabbits on the board at the 12with a 23-yard field goal.

After a short UNI punt gave SDSU the ball in Panther territory, Reifenrath capped a nine-play, 40-yard drive with a 26-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter to put the Jackrabbits up 6-0.

UNI posted the first touchdown of the game at the 6:21 mark of the second quarter, marching 80 yards on 12 plays. Walter Payton Award nominee Pat Grace finished off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run.

After the Panthers turned the ball over for the third time in the first half, SDSU appeared on the verge of taking a halftime lead. Taking over at the UNI 24 following an interception by Jake Steffen, SDSU moved to the 2-yard line before Kyle Minett was stripped of the ball by L.J. Fort.

SDSU regained the lead on its second possession of the first half. On the first play of the drive, redshirt freshman quarterback Thomas O'Brien hooked up with Glen Fox down the left sideline for a 63-yard scoring strike. The touchdown was the longest passing play of the season for the Jackrabbits, who made the score 14-7 as O’Brien connected with Colin Cochart on the two-point conversion.

UNI came back with another 80-yard scoring drive. The Panthers needed only six plays before Grace again found paydirt, this time from two yards out with 9:20 to play in the third quarter.

The rest of the game belonged to the Jackrabbits, who responded by taking the lead for good on their next possession. Kyle Harris, who missed earlier from 50 yards, connected from 49 yards out with 5:03 left in the third quarter to cap a 10-play, 46-yard drive.

The Jackrabbits put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter with their longest scoring drive of the season. After taking over on their own 7-yard line, O’Brien led the Jackrabbits on the 10-play march by completing 5-of-6 passes for 32 yards and Kyle Minett broke off a 59-yard run to set SDSU up first-and-goal a thte UNI 3. After Minett gained two yards on a pair of carries, O’Brien found Cochart for a 1-yard touchdown pass with 3:43 remaining.

SDSU, which came into the game with the top scoring defense in the Football Championship Subdivision, held UNI off the board the rest of the way. Over their final four possessions, the Panthers were forced to punt twice, turned the ball over on downs and had the clock run out.

Derek Domino led the Jackrabbits with 11 tackles, with Chris Johnson adding seven.

O’Brien finished the game 26-of-37 passing for 285 yards and two touchdowns — all career highs. The Winona, Minn., native connected with eight different receivers, including Fox, who caught five passes for 99 yards. Mike Steffen and Saunders Montague added five receptions each for SDSU, gaining 59 and 37 yards, respectively.

Minett posted the 12th 100-yard game of his career and fifth this season, gaining 105 yards on 22 carries.

For UNI, Grace ended the afternoon 21-of-38 passing for 215 yards and was intercepted twice. Carlos Anderson gained 79 yards on 13 carries, while D.P. Eyman recorded nine catches for 76 yards.

SDSU held a 429-327 advantage in total yards despite running two fewer plays, 72-70, than the Panthers.

UNI was led defensively by Josh Mahoney with 11 tackles. Quentin Scott made 10 stops.

The Jackrabbits resume league play Oct. 31 at Youngstown State. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. Eastern Time (3 p.m. Central) at Stambaugh Stadium in Youngstown, Ohio, with television coverage on Fox College Sports.

NOTES: SDSU ended a three-game losing streak to UNI, defeating the Panthers for the first time since a 14-7 victory at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium in 1979 ... UNI leads the all-time series 25-17-2 ... the Jackrabbits improved to 11-2 in MVFC games since joining the league in 2008 ... SDSU has won six league games in a row overall ... the Jackrabbits upped their all-time Hobo Day record to 56-35-5 in winning for the sixth time in the last seven Hobo Day games ... General Parnell recorded his team-leading fourth interception in the first quarter, but left the game in the second half due to injury ... O’Brien improved to 3-0 as a starter and has not thrown an interception since taking over the reins Oct. 10 at Missouri State ... Harris’ 49-yard field goal was a career long ... SDSU has not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season is averaging 14,002 fans ... through four home games, SDSU ... Saturday’s attendance was two more than attended the 2008 Hobo Day game against McNeese State (La.)