The #2 Jackrabbits got off to a slow start in Brookings on Saturday night. The visiting Aggies from UC Davis, the same team SDSU had knocked off in last year’s playoffs, were in town and were threatening early. Rex Connors had just stepped in front of a Mark Gronowski pass an intercepted it to kill the drive. One play later, though, Deaton McGaughy snagged it right back for the Jacks, a play that was indicative of the night to come for both teams. UC Davis would have its chances but somehow, someway the Jacks would fight back to pick up a gutsy first win of the 2022 campaign.
The first score of the night came after McGaughy grabbed his pick. Gronowski ran it in from a yard out to put SDSU up 7-0, a score that would remain until early in the second quarter.
The Jackrabbits defense, which hadn’t given up a touchdown in nearly six quarters up to this point, finally allowed one when UC Davis quarterback Miles Hastings connected with Lan Larison who took it 68 yards to the end zone.
Now knotted at 7-7, though, South Dakota State’s offense responded in a big way. Gronowski led a 11-play, 86-yard drive that featured a heavy dose of running back Isaiah Davis. Gronowski ended the lengthy series with a five-yard scoring run, his second of the evening.
The Aggies answered with an 11-play drive of their own right before halftime. Isaiah Gomez drilled his 36-yard field goal as time expired on the half and at the break the Jacks lead was cut to 14-10.
UC Davis hung around for much of the night and made life annoying for SDSU coming out of halftime. After being able to produce noting on their first offensive possession, the Aggies intercepted Gronowski again. Once again, though, they were able to do nothing with it and had to punt away.
A missed field goal by Gomez late in the third quarter... one that would ultimately come back to haunt UC Davis... kept the score at 14-10 as the fourth and final frame arrived.
Gronowski and offense once more strung together a long drive that ended in six. With under ten minutes to play, Gronowski found himself running for his life just seven yards away from the end zone. He scrambled to his right and found Tyler Feldkamp for a fantastic sliding touchdown catch to put SDSU up by two scores.
Mark Gronowski finds Tyler Feldkamp in the end zone for the typical 7-yard TD pass!— SDSU Football (@GoJacksFB) September 11, 2022
Jackrabbits go 12 plays, 75 yards over a 5:56 span to go up 24-10 over the Aggies! #GoJacks pic.twitter.com/4EtPnZ2Zjg
Still, the Aggies didn’t buckle. Nick Eaton picked up an Angel Johnson fumble late in the fourth and sparked a comeback bid. Hastings hit Justin Poerio for a nine-yard score to draw within eight. The PAT, however, was blocked and returned the other way for what appeared to be a rare defensive two-point conversion by the Jacks. Review, though, took the score off the board.
Hastings proceeded to make things really uncomfortable for the SDSU crowd when he found tight end McCallan Castles for a late 25-yard touchdown. The two point try, though, failed and forced UC Davis to attempt an onside kick.
The Jacks finally put an end to the Aggies comeback efforts as they fell on it to hang on for the 24-22 victory.
It was an up-and-down night for Gronowski who finished with just 110 passing yards but three total touchdowns (two rushing and one passing). He did also throw two interceptions. Davis led SDSU in rushing with 112 yards but did not find the end zone.
Hastings had a largely productive night for the Aggies, despite coming up short in the end. He completed 26 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns. Star running back Ulonzo Gilliam Jr, though, was held in check as he came out with a mere 33 rush yards on 11 carries.
South Dakota State did just enough to escape with a much-needed win. The Jacks (1-1) will prepare for another home game next weekend against Butler. UC Davis (0-2), meanwhile, will face San Diego on Saturday.