NORMAL, Ill. — South Dakota State quickly turned two second-quarter turnovers into 14 points to pull away from Illinois State for a 38-28 victory Saturday in a matchup at Hancock Stadium between top 10 ranked teams from the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
The Jackrabbits, ranked seventh in the STATS FCS media poll and eighth by the Football Championship Subdivision coaches, improved to 5-2 overall and 3-2 in the MVFC. Illinois State, ranked ninth by the coaches and 11th by the media, dropped its second game in a row to fall to 5-3 overall and 2-3 in league play.
FINAL: No. 7/8 South Dakota State 38, No. 9/11 Illinois State 28 ... Jackrabbits (5-2 overall, 3-2 @ValleyFootball) return home to face Missouri State on Nov. 3. Kickoff at 2 p.m. at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium. #LastPlay #GoJacks pic.twitter.com/s1nvAPHqU5— SDSU Football (@GoJacksFB) October 27, 2018
Each team scored on a big play on its opening drive of the game. On SDSU's third play from scrimmage, senior quarterback Taryn Christion stepped up in the pocket to avoid the rush and found Adam Anderson along the right sideline for a 64-yard touchdown catch and run.
Illinois State answered 16 seconds later on its first offensive play as Brady Davis connected deep with Andrew Edgar for an 81-yard touchdown.
Later in the first quarter, the Jackrabbits moved deep into Illinois State territory, but an interception in the end zone by the Redbirds' Willie Edwards ended the threat.
The game looked as though it would settle into a defensive struggle as the two squads punted on the next six possessions combined.
Defensive tackle Xavier Ward turned the game back in the Jackrabbits' favor midway in the waning minutes of the first half, stripping the ball loose and recovering the fumble at the Illinois State 5-yard line. One play later, Mikey Daniel scored to give SDSU a lead it would not relinquish.
Things went from bad to worse for Illinois State on the very next play as a bad exchange on the snap led to a fumble that was recovered by SDSU linebacker Seven Wilson at the Redbird 19. Six plays and a little over two minutes later, Christion hit Jacob Brown over the middle for a 5-yard touchdown pass.
After forcing Illinois State to punt for the fifth time in the first half, the Jackrabbits put their third touchdown of the second quarter on the board as Cade Johnson ran past the Redbird defense on the back end of an 81-yard touchdown pass from Christion for a 28-7 SDSU lead. Johnson ended the afternoon with eight catches for 131 yards.
The Redbirds missed a 35-yard field goal at the end of the first half, while SDSU turned to the running game in the second half to extend its lead to 35-7 on a 7-yard run by Daniel.
Meanwhile, the Jackrabbit defense continued to stuff the Illinois State rushing attack, which came into the game averaging 221.7 yards per game. Running backs James Robinson (13 carries, 10 yards) and Markel Smith (5-5) managed only a combined 15 yards on 18 attempts.
In the fourth quarter, SDSU put together a time-consuming, 10-play, 44-yard drive that ended with a 48-yard field goal by Chase Vinatieri that proved to be the final tally on the afternoon for the Jackrabbits.
Illinois State rallied behind backup quarterback Jake Kolbe in the fourth quarter, scoring three touchdowns. Kolbe, who ended the game 15-of-23 passing for 183 yards, threw touchdown passes of 3 and 9 yards to Tanner Taula and Tyler Petkovich, respectively, before hooking up with Edgar on a 26-yard score with a little over a minute to play. Kolbe also was the Redbirds' leading rusher with 45 yards on five carries.
Christion, who set the SDSU career record for completions during the game, went 18-for-28 for 292 yards. Daniel led the ground game with 84 yards on 20 carries and the two scores.
Dalton Cox paced the Jackrabbit defense with nine tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss. Christian Rozeboom added eight stops.
The Jackrabbits return home to face Missouri State next Saturday (Nov. 3). Kickoff for the Military Appreciation Day game is set for 2 p.m. at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.
- SDSU leads the all-time series, which dates back to 2008, 5-4
- The home team had won the previous five games in the series
- The Jackrabbits improved to 34-42 against ranked FCS foes in the Division I era (since 2004) and has now defeated at least ranked opponent in seven consecutive seasons
- Johnson recorded his fourth 100-yard game of the season
- Christion ended the day with 740 career completions, surpassing the previous Jackrabbit record of 737 set by Austin Sumner from 2011-14
- SDSU tallied eight tackles for loss in the game
- Freshman Jaxon Janke averaged 17 yards on two punt returns as he shared those duties for the first time this season
- Attendance was 12,144