SDSU's 'big three' helps Jackrabbits retain Dakota Marker over NDSU
BROOKINGS, S.D.—South Dakota State's trio of stars came to play on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 4, and the Dakota Marker will remain in the Brookings for another year.
Quarterback Taryn Christion, tight end Dallas Goedert and receiver Jake Wieneke were big-play machines and the Jackrabbits defeated North Dakota State 33-21 before an enthusiastic 18,130 fans at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium. Christion threw for 339 yards and Goedert caught seven of those for 116 yards.
"If we execute, we're a tough offense to stop," Goedert said. "We just have to keep playing mistake-free football. The way our defense is playing, I think we're a tough team to beat."
It was the first loss of the year in nine games for the second-ranked Bison, who still hold sole possession of first place in the Missouri Valley Football Conference thanks to losses by Illinois State and South Dakota. SDSU, 7-2, moved firmly into the FCS playoff picture with its third straight win.
NDSU committed a season-high five turnovers that the Jacks turned into 17 points. It's tough enough facing SDSU's three offensive weapons even-up, but giving the Jacks prime field position was not a good recipe for the visiting team.
"Obviously we didn't play very well today," said Bison head coach Chris Klieman. "We didn't execute today. We had some opportunities where we couldn't get off the field on defense and obviously when you have the turnover bug, and especially on short fields to that good of an offense, bad things are going to happen. We will not point a finger at anybody, offense, defense. I'm not going to get into, do we have to do this or that with the offense or defense? It's one game, it's a big game, it's the Marker game but by no means is our season all of a sudden in jeopardy."
There was a time early in the Valley season when the Jackrabbits were the team looking somewhat in jeopardy. Losses to Northern Iowa and Youngstown State, where they were beaten soundly in the run game, left the Jacks' defense in question.
Against NDSU, it was a role reversal. It was the Jackrabbits who soundly had the time of possession advantage holding the ball for 35 minutes to NDSU's 25. NDSU had just 108 yards on the ground with leading rusher Bruce Anderson held to 30 yards on eight attempts.
"(The defense) is doing a great job right now," Goedert said. "If you get five takeaways, that's exceptional. You can only hope for that and they did that today."
The Bison held Wieneke to just two receptions, but the latter came on fourth-and-4 and the Bison within 27-21. The 14-yard gain gave the Jackrabbits a first down at the 19. Goedert made a one-handed catch on the next play for a touchdown and with 7:06 to play, SDSU was out of imminent danger.
NDSU had no answers for Goedert, who found himself open more often than not with five of his receptions in the first two quarters.
"The combination of his size and speed," said Bison safety Robbie Grimsley. "He knows he's bigger than you and he's going to use his body against you."
Consecutive catches of 22 and 25 yards, for instance, put the Jackrabbits at the Bison 13-yard line in the closing minute of the first half following an Easton Stick interception. Christion scored from the 1-yard line with 12 seconds left and the Jacks took a 17-7 halftime lead.
One series earlier, a 45-yard pass to Wieneke ended in a field goal that gave SDSU a 10-7 advantage. The completion moved Wieneke past Jerry Rice and into third place on the FCS all-time receiving yardage list.
Also on that drive, Goedert surpassed Southern Illinois' MyCole Pruitt as the all-time leader in Missouri Valley receiving yards by a tight end.
The Bison offense, meanwhile, did not live up to game-plan expectations. Stick was 7 of 15 passing, but the Bison running game had just 66 yards on 14 carries and SDSU went into halftime with the much-publicized time of possession advantage.
"He has a lot of confidence, you can see that in the way he plays," Stiegelmeier said. "He has great hands and great athletic ability."
NDSU, however, responded taking the second half kickoff and doing something with it. Dimitri Williams started it with a 39-yard kickoff return to the Bison 41-yard line, with the big play a third-and-18 completion from Stick to Darrius Shepherd that gained 20 yards.
The touchdown came on a 24-yard pass to Ty Brooks and the Bison pulled within 17-14.
But two Stick turnovers hurt the Bison the rest of the third quarter. His fumble, which came two plays after NDSU stopped the Jacks on fourth-and-short, resulted in a Mikey Daniel five-yard touchdown run and it was 24-14.
SDSU converted a Stick interception into a field goal and heading into the fourth quarter the Jacks led 27-14.
But NDSU finally got a break, recovering a fumbled punt by Adam Anderson at the SDSU 14. Stick scored from the 11 two plays later, and suddenly the Bison were back in it trailing 27-21.
But SDSU responded going 86 yards to make it a two-possession game. The touchdown was a 19-yard pass to Goedert and it was 33-21.
It wasn't too much longer when the Jacks were holding the Marker at midfield.
"It felt good," said a 6-foot-5, 315-pound nose tackle. "And I like heavy things."