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South Dakota State Gives Iowa Scare in Opener

The Hawkeyes may have come out victorious but it was the Jackrabbits who impressed in Iowa City on Saturday.

Syndication: The Des Moines Register Bryon Houlgrave/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Hawkeyes got more than they bargained for when they welcomed in the Jackrabbits on Saturday afternoon. John Stiegelmeier's SDSU team entered the contest ranked #2 in the FCS and they showed why against Iowa. Despite coming up just short, SDSU has nothing to hang their heads about and their performance should tell the rest of the subdivision that the Jacks mean business in 2022.

It was a defensive battle from the get go as the only score in the first quarter came courtesy of an Aaron Blom field goal that had Iowa clinging to a 3-0 lead. Blom had missed one prior in the opening frame as the two teams traded punts early and often.

Late in the second quarter, Hawkeyes quarterback Spencer Petras tossed a pick to SDSU's Caleb Francl. Francl's interception set up the Jacks offense for their first score of the game. Hunter Dustman connected on a 44-yard kick that knotted the game up. Everyone knew that South Dakota State was capable of playing a tough game going in and at halftime the Jacks had things even at 3 apiece.

The second half began very similarly to the first as the two teams exchanged more punts. It was Iowa’s defense that finally made a pivotal play when they swarmed running back Isaiah Davis in the end zone for a safety. The score sat an odd 5-3 in favor of the home team as the fourth quarter began.

As the game wore on neither defense would give and neither offense was able to get much of anything going. The Hawkeyes tacked on another safety, however, when quarterback Mark Gronowski was sacked behind the goal line.

SDSU's last chance drive at the end came up short on downs and Iowa put the finishing touches on what was a scary game. Neither defense surrendered a touchdown as the two safeties proved to be the ultimate difference.

South Dakota State's defense was tremendous on third down, holding Iowa to just 4-of-17 and only ten total first downs. The offense did not turn the ball over at all and they controlled the clock for almost 30 minutes. That's a winning formula and it almost worked on Saturday.

The Jacks put the FCS on notice despite the loss and the message is clear: this team can play with anyone and they won't be intimidated by whoever or wherever they play. Stiegelmeier's team falls to 0-1 but an exciting season lies ahead in Brookings.

The Jacks will now prepare for a home contest against UC Davis next weekend.