Jackrabbits Host Missouri State in Regular Season Finale

BROOKINGS, SD: NOVEMBER 4: North Dakota State at South Dakota State football at the Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings, SD. (Photo by Dave Eggen/Inertia)

The top-ranked South Dakota State football team continues its pursuit of history as it closes out the 2023 regular season Saturday with a Senior Day matchup against Missouri State.

Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m. at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium, with senior recognition beginning at approximately 1:40 p.m. The game also has been designated as Military Appreciation Day, with active duty military personnel and veterans eligible to claim up to four free tickets at the west stadium gate starting at 12:30 p.m. A valid military or veteran ID must be presented.

The Jackrabbits, who have been atop both major Football Championship Subdivision polls all season, enter Saturday’s game with a 10-0 overall record and 7-0 mark in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. SDSU clinched at least a share of the league title last week with a 34-0 shutout victory at Youngstown State and can earn its second straight outright championship with either a win Saturday or a loss by South Dakota.

SDSU has now claimed the MVFC’s automatic bid to the FCS playoffs three of the past four seasons and the Jackrabbits’ back-to-back league titles mark the first time that has happened in program history since winning three consecutive North Central Conference titles from 1961-63. SDSU will also look to close out the regular season with a perfect record for the first time in program history; the 1926 squad finished with an 8-0-3 record, while the 1950 team posted a 9-0-1 overall mark.

Missouri State, meanwhile, will be in search of its second win in a row over a ranked opponent. The Bears knocked off No. 15 Northern Iowa in convincing fashion last Saturday, 35-16, to improve to 4-6 overall and 3-4 in the MVFC.

THE SERIES: Saturday’s game will mark the 14th meeting on the gridiron between SDSU and Missouri State, a series that dates back to when the Jackrabbits joined the Missouri Valley Football Conference at the start of the 2008 season. The Jackrabbits hold a 12-1 series advantage and have won the last seven matchups.

The Bears’ lone win in the series was a 35-21 home-field victory on Oct. 19, 2013.

Last season’s meeting between the two squads served as the 2022 MVFC opener, which was played Sept. 24, 2022, in Springfield, Missouri, with both teams ranked in the top five in at least one major FCS poll.

The game was tied at 14-all entering the fourth quarter, but SDSU came out on top 28-14 after Mark Gronowski threw touchdown passes to Zach Heins (21 yards) and Jadon Janke (40 yards) in the final eight minutes of the game.

Interceptions by Colby Huerter in the third quarter and Matthew Durrance in the closing seconds of the game helped the Jackrabbits secure the road victory.

 South Dakota State was selected as the FedEx Ground FCS National Team of the Week after its 37-3 victory at No. 4/9 South Dakota on Oct. 28. The Jackrabbits’ 34-point margin of victory was the largest in the series by either program since 1963.

SEASON 16 IN THE MVFC: The 2023 season marks South Dakota State’s 16th as a member of the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Since joining the league in 2008, SDSU is the only program in that span to not have a losing season in conference play.

The Jackrabbits hold a 91-34 record (.728 winning percentage) in MVFC games and have now won six or more league games eight times. SDSU has now claimed the league title four times: previously earning a share of league titles in 2016 and during the 2020-21 spring season before running the table with an 8-0 record in conference play en route to the 2022 national championship, along with at least a share of the 2023 crown.

YEAR 20 in FCS: The 2023 season marks the 20th season South Dakota State has competed in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Since joining the Division I ranks in 2004, the Jackrabbits have compiled a 166-79 record (.678 winning percentage) and will make their 13th FCS playoff appearance overall, including their 12th consecutive appearance.

ELITE COMPANY: Heading into the 2023 season, South Dakota State was one of only two Football Championship Subdivision programs to reach the playoffs each of the last 11 seasons, including advancing to the national semifinals or championship game in four of the last five seasons. The Jackrabbits have secured the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s automatic bid to the 2023 playoffs, assuring SDSU of its 12th consecutive postseason appearance and 13th overall at the FCS level.

MVFC rival North Dakota State held the longest active streak with 13 consecutive trips to the playoffs entering the 2023 campaign.

WINNING STREAKS CONTINUE: South Dakota State extended several winning streaks with its 34-0 victory at Youngstown State on Nov. 11.

First, the Jackrabbits extended their overall winning streak to 24 games dating back to the 2022 season opener. SDSU has won 15 games against ranked opponents in that span, including three victories over North Dakota State and two each against North Dakota and and Montana State.

SDSU also won its 16th consecutive Missouri Valley Football Conference game and lengthened its current winning streak in road or neutral-site games to 10.

The Jackrabbits’ 24-game winning streak is tied for the fourth-longest in the history of the Football Championship Subdivision, which dates back to 1978. The FCS winning streaks of 20 or more games are:

  • 39 games – North Dakota State (2017-20)
  • 33 – North Dakota State (2012-14)
  • 26 – James Madison (2016-17)
  • 24 – Pennsylvania (1992-95)
  • 24 – Montana (2001-02)
  • 24 – South Dakota State (2022-present)
  • 22 – Harvard (2013-15)
  • 22 – Sam Houston (2019-21)
  • 21 – Montana (1995-96)
  • 21 – Colgate (2002-03)
  • 20 – Holy Cross (1990-92)
  • 20 – Dayton (1996-97)

RANKINGS STREAK: By being ranked first in the Stats Perform FCS preseason poll and again in all 10 polls conducted thus far during the 2023 regular season, SDSU has now appeared in the top 25 of 157 consecutive media polls dating back to October 2012.

The Jackrabbits have held the top spot in the poll for more than a year — taking over the top spots on Oct. 17, 2022, and keeping that ranking for the final seven surveys of the 2022 season. SDSU was a unanimous No. 1 selection to start the 2023 season to hold the top ranking in a preseason poll for the first time in program history.

BEST START: With its 17-10 victory over Southern Illinois on Oct. 21, the Jackrabbits moved to 7-0 on the season, marking the first time in program history a  South Dakota State football team accomplished the feat.

Previously, both the 1950 and 1951 squads began the season with 6-0 records before finishing with ties in their seventh games of those years.

CAPTAINS: Leading the Jackrabbit football team are six captains:

McCormick is in his third season as a team captain, while Bock, Greenfield and Gronowski are in their second seasons in the role. Davis and Gales are first-time captains.

 Eight players from defending national champion South Dakota State headline the 2023 Stats Perform FCS Preseason All-America Team, presented by FedEx Ground.

The Jackrabbits placed four players on the first team, with three of those selections coming from the offensive side of the ball as Garret Greenfield at tackle and Mason McCormick at guard were joined by running back Isaiah Davis. The senior offensive line duo helped clear the way for SDSU to post averages of 34.2 points and 384.6 yards of total offense per game in 2022.

Greenfield twice has been named to the postseason All-America first team selected by Stats Perform, earning the distinction following the 2020-21 spring season and again in 2022. The Rock Rapids, Iowa, native is one of 11 returning players from last year’s first-team honor squad.

Davis, a senior from Joplin, Missouri, averaged 5.8 yards per carry in 2022 en route to 1,451 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also factored in the passing game with 21 receptions for 173 yards.

Leading the Jackrabbit contingent on defense was linebacker Adam Bock. A senior from Solon, Iowa, Bock was limited to 11 games last season, but still finished second on the squad with 76 total tackles, including 7.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.

Second-team recognition on defense went to senior cornerback DyShawn Gales. A senior from North Chicago, Illinois, Gales led the Jackrabbits in 2022 with four interceptions, while adding added six pass breakups to go along with 31 tackles (23 solo).

SDSU’s three other honorees were all second-team selections involved in the Jackrabbit passing game: Quarterback Mark Gronowski, wide receiver Jaxon Janke and tight end Zach Heins.

Gronowski accounted for 38 touchdowns last season — 26 through the air and 12 on the ground. The junior from Naperville, Illinois, completed 65 percent of his passes (232-of-356) for 2,967 yards and gained another 408 yards rushing.

Janke, a senior from Madison, led the squad in all three major receiving categories last season with 60 receptions for 857 yards and nine touchdowns.

Heins, a senior from Sioux Falls, ranked third on the team in both receptions (29) and receiving touchdowns (4), while ranking fourth in receiving yards (347).

A total of 107 student-athletes were honored across first, second and third teams. All 15 FCS conferences and 52 schools were represented on the Stats Perform FCS Preseason All-America Team.

In addition, Davis, Gronowski and Janke were all included on the initial watch list for the Walter Payton Award, which is presented annually to the top offensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision. Bock was included on the defensive side for the Buck Buchanan Award.

MODELS OF EFFICIENCY: South Dakota State has made 39 trips into the red zone so far this season and has come away with points 38 of those times. The Jacks have scored a touchdown on 32 of those trips — 21 rushing, 11 passing — with six field goals.

The Jackrabbits had a streak of scoring on 70 consecutive drives into the red zone come to end with an interception in the end zone early in the fourth quarter Oct. 21 at Southern Illinois. Before that, the last time SDSU did not score when inside the opponent’s 20-yard line was on a missed field goal in the second quarter of their Oct. 1, 2022, game versus Western Illinois. SDSU had scored 57 touchdowns and kicked 13 field goals in that span.

In addition, the Jackrabbits have converted on an FCS-best 56.7 percent (59-of-104) of their third-down attempts. SDSU finished above 50 percent in the first six games of the season before being limited to a 4-for-12 performance Oct. 21 at Southern Illinois.

Since the calendar flipped  — first to October, then to November — the SDSU defense has improved dramatically in both the number of turnovers forced and sacks.

Over the past six games, the Jackrabbits have combined to force 15 turnovers — seven fumbles and eight interceptions — and have tallied 15 sacks. SDSU posted four sacks against both Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois, while forcing a season-best five turnovers versus UNI.

The Jackrabbits’ seven fumble recoveries over the past six games nearly matches their season total from a year ago of eight in 15 contests.

Cade Terveer leads the sack artists with four over the past six games, including 1.5 in the Oct. 14 Hobo Day victory over Northern Iowa. Twelve different players have registered at least a half-sack in the six-game span.

BLOCK THAT KICK: South Dakota State entered its Nov. 4 matchup with North Dakota State without a blocked kick this season. That quickly changed when the Jackrabbits blocked a pair of kicks against their rivals to the north.

Ryan Van Marel came up with the first block as he got a hand on an extra-point attempt following the Bison scoring a touchdown on the opening drive of the game. Jarod DePriest did the honors for the second time in the game as he blocked a 37-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter after the Bison moved into scoring position with a 77-yard kickoff return.

Van Marel notched his second blocked kick in as many weeks as thwarted a 29-yard field goal attempt by Youngstown State in the second quarter of their Nov. 11 matchup. Van Marel’s block helped the Jackrabbits preserve a 34-0 shutout victory.

PICKING OFF THE COMPETITION: The Jackrabbit defense has continually taken the ball away from the opposition in recent seasons, including leading the Football Championship Subdivision in interceptions each of the last two seasons.

After leading the subdivision with 21 interceptions in 2021, SDSU tallied an FCS-best 18 interceptions last season, including two in the national championship game against North Dakota State. Jackrabbit defenders recorded at least one interception in each of their 11 regular season games, continuing that streak with an interception by DyShawn Gales in the Nov. 12 regular season finale against Illinois State. Gales went on to finish with a team-high four interceptions en route to all-MVFC honors.

The Jackrabbits also ranked sixth in turnover margin with an average of plus-1.07 turnovers per game after forcing 26 total turnovers compared to losing 10. SDSU held a 115-16 advantage in points off turnovers last season.

Dating back to the start of the 2018 season, the Jackrabbits have intercepted at least one pass in 61 of their last 76 games for a total of 100 pickoffs. SDSU tallied three interceptions in its 2023 season opener against Western Oregon (Colby HuerterTucker LargeKolten Tilford) and added two interceptions Oct. 14 versus Northern Iowa (Jason FreemanDyShawn Gales), Oct. 28 at South Dakota (Tucker LargeIsaiah Stalbird) and Nov. 4 versus North Dakota State (Graham Spalding, Freeman).

In all, 10 different Jackrabbits recorded at least one interception a season ago and SDSU picked off at least one pass in 13 of 15 games.

MANY HAPPY RETURNS: South Dakota State raced out to a 28-0 lead a minute into the second quarter of its Aug. 31 season opener against Western Oregon thanks to a pair of long interception returns for touchdowns by its starting safeties.

First, Colby Huerter hauled in an interception off a deflection by DyShawn Gales for a 54-yard return for touchdown. On the first play of the second quarter, Tucker Large picked off a pass deep over the middle and weaved his way through traffic for a 64-yard score.

It marked the fifth time in the Division I era of Jackrabbit football (since 2004) that SDSU returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the same game. The others:

  • Sept. 29, 2007 vs. Stephen F. Austin – Jimmy Rogers (32 yards, Q2), Conrad Kjerstad (82 yards, Q4);
  • Nov. 10, 2007 vs. Southern Utah — Tyler Koch (45 and 99 yards in Q4);
  • Oct. 1, 2016 vs. Western Illinois – Christian Rozeboom (37 yards, Q3), Dallas Brown (19 yards, Q3);
  • Nov. 27, 2021 vs. UC Davis — Adam Bock (39 yards, Q3), Dalys Beanum (59 yards, Q4).

GROUND GAME SHINES: South Dakota State’s rushing attack was on full display over a three-game span as the Jacks combined for 999 yards on the ground.

That total surpassed the previous three-game high of 964 yards over the final two games of the 2018 regular season — 315 yards at Southern Illinois and 323 yards vs. South Dakota — and the first game of the FCS playoffs vs. Duquesne (326 yards).

SDSU’s rushing onslaught began with a 359-yard performance against Drake at Target Field in Minneapolis on Sept. 16. The Jackrabbits gained 266 yards on the ground in their Sept. 30 league opener against North Dakota, followed by racking up 374 yards Oct. 7 at Illinois State.

Isaiah Davis led the Jackrabbit rushing attack with 406 yards on 44 carries (9.2 ypc) over those three games with five touchdowns. Amar Johnson added 225 yards on 36 attempts (6.3 ypc) and a score, while Angel Johnson contributed 179 yards on only 11 carries (16.3 ypc) with three touchdowns.

Since moving to the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2008, the Jackrabbits are a perfect 20-0 when rushing for 300 or more yards in a game, including a 9-0 mark against league foes.

BOTH ENDS OF THE SPECTRUM: Heading into this week, the Jackrabbits rank in the top five of the Football Championship Subdivision in both scoring offense (fourth, 37.9 points per game) and scoring defense (first, 10.7 points per game). SDSU has scored 20 or more points in 23 of the 24 games in their current winning streak and has held the opposition to 10 points or less 10 times, including six times this season.

OWNING THE THIRD: South Dakota State has held a huge advantage coming out of the locker room at halftime by outscoring the opposition by a 79-7 margin in the third quarter of games so far this season. The Jackrabbits added to their advantage with a touchdown for a 7-0 advantage in the third quarter of their Nov. 11 shutout victory at Youngstown State.

SDSU has scored on its opening drive of the third quarter in five consecutive games.

SPOTTING THE LEAD: Scoring first has mattered little during South Dakota State’s school-record 24-game winning streak. Jackrabbit opponents have drawn first blood 10 times in that span, including four games (Montana State, Drake, South Dakota, North Dakota State) this season.

The largest deficit faced by SDSU during its winning streak has been 14 points on two occasions, the last of which came against North Dakota in the squads’ 2022 meeting in Grand Forks. UND scored the first 14 points of the game before the Jackrabbits took control by scoring 42 of the next 49 points en route to a 49-35 win.

OFFENSIVE OUTBURST: South Dakota State put up its most points and total yards in a game since the 2018 season in its Target Field victory over Drake. The Jacks’ 70 points were the most since scoring a school-record 90 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Sept. 15, 2018.

SDSU also racked up 618 yards of total offense against Drake for its highest total since a 656-yard day at Southern Illinois on Nov. 10, 2018.

In addition, the Jackrabbits accumulated another 252 yards on returns versus Drake — a school-record 179 yards on six punt returns and 73 yards on two kickoff returns.

SHARING THE WEALTH: Nine different South Dakota State players scored touchdowns in the Jackrabbits’ 70-7 victory over Drake on Sept. 16 at Target Field in Minneapolis. Angel Johnson was the lone Jackrabbit to score more than once as he found the end zone on runs of 21 and 66 yards in the second half.

Backup quarterback Chase Mason tallied the longest touchdown of the game with a 69-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, while Kevin Brenner — previously a defensive end for the Jackrabbits — scored his first career touchdown on his first collegiate reception, a 3-yarder late in the first quarter.

GRONOWSKI A DUAL THREAT: South Dakota State quarterback Mark Gronowski reached one career milestone in the Jackrabbits’ Sept. 9 victory over Montana State and added another the following week against Drake.

On his 20-yard touchdown run in the third quarter of the game against Montana State, Gronowski topped the 1,000-yard mark for career rushing. One week later, Gronowski surpassed 5,000 career passing yards as he completed 18-of-25 passes for 226 yards and a career-high five touchdowns against Drake.

Gronowski is the third SDSU quarterback to top 5,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing in his career, joining Taryn Christion (11,535 passing/1,515 rushing from 2015-18) and Ted Wahl (6,016 passing/1,229 rushing from 1985-88). He ranks third in SDSU history with 6,568 passing yards and 7,748 yards of total offense.

He had a streak of passing and rushing for a touchdown in 11 consecutive games come to an end Oct. 21 at Southern Illinois, but has accomplished the feat in 20 of 35 career starts.

ANGEL-IC PERFORMANCES: Running back Angel Johnson has made the most of his limited opportunities thus far during the 2023 season. In 10 games, Johnson has averaged 8.6 yards in the 37 times he has touched the ball, recording 291 yards on 33 carries and adding four receptions for 27 yards.

To close out September, Johnson scored rushing touchdowns of 21 and 66 yards against Drake on Sept. 16, while adding a 50-yard touchdown burst for the final SDSU score in the Jackrabbits’ Sept. 30 victory over North Dakota.

Johnson scored his fourth touchdown of the season on a 4-yard run to close out the scoring in the Oct. 28 victory at South Dakota.

A WINNING COMBINATION: Jackrabbit running back Isaiah Davis recorded his fifth 100-yard game of the 2023 season and the 21st of his career when he gained 130 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown Nov. 11 at Youngstown State.

SDSU improved to 20-1 in games in which Davis has topped the century mark, with the lone loss coming in the 2020-21 national championship game versus Sam Houston.

Davis is poised to reach a pair of milestones in Saturday’s game.The Joplin, Missouri, native needs only 10 rushing yards to top the 1,000-yard mark in a season for the
second consecutive year. Davis gained a team-best 1,451 yards in the Jackrabbits’ national championship season in 2022.

In addition, Davis enters the week with 3,960 career rushing yards and would be the fifth SDSU player to rush for 4,000 or more yards in a career.

Davis also had scored a rushing touchdown in 11 consecutive games dating back to last season. He extended his streak with a 4-yard touchdown run in the first quarter of the Jackrabbits’ Aug. 31 season-opening win over Western Oregon.

SCORING BINGE: South Dakota State senior wide receiver Jadon Janke has made up for some lost time in recent weeks with a total of eight touchdowns over the last six games.

After being slowed by injury during the non-conference portion of the schedule, Janke has caught two touchdown passes three times since the start of October in games at Illinois State, versus North Dakota State and at Youngstown State. He also cuaght a touchdown pass in the Oct. 14 Hobo Day game against Northern Iowa and ran for a score Oct. 28 at South Dakota.

Janke currently leads the team with seven TD receptions after catching seven passes for a career-high 166 yards last week at Youngstown State. His recent scoring prowess has allowed him to tie his twin brother, Jaxon, for fourth place on the SDSU career TD catches chart with 27.

WILDE IMPRESSES IN DEBUT: True freshman Griffin Wilde (pronounced WILL-dee) finished as the Jackrabbits’ leading receiver in their Aug. 31 season opener versus Western Oregon. He opened the scoring with a 31-yard touchdown reception from Mark Gronowski and ended his collegiate debut with team bests of four catches and 79 receiving yards. A Sioux Falls native, Wilde added a second 31-yard reception in the second half to set up a Jackrabbit field goal.

Wilde continued his fast start to his collegiate career by being named Missouri Valley Football Conference Newcomer of the Week for his efforts in the Jackrabbits’ victory over Montana State on Sept. 9. He scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 35-yard catch and run with 1 minute and 30 seconds remaining as SDSU rallied for a 20-16 victory. He ended the night with two catches for 49 yards.

In the Sept. 16 victory over Drake, Wilde caught a touchdown for the third straight game to start his career, hauling in an 18-yarder in the second quarter.

Wilde currently ranks fifth on the team with 16 receptions, while ranking second on the team with five touchdown catches. He also ranks third on the team with 299 yards receiving, highlighted by a career-long 49-yard touchdown Oct. 21 at Southern Illinois.

DEPTH ON DEFENSE: Whether based on philosophy or necessity, South Dakota State has built its standing as one of the top defenses in the Football Championship Subdivision by relying on its depth. Over the course of its 15-game schedule in 2022 22 different players earned a starting assignment on defense for the Jackrabbits.

Only nose tackle Ryan Van Marel and defensive end Cade Terveer started every game last season on the defensive side of the ball for the Jackrabbits last season and both return to the lineup in 2023.

EMPTYING THE BENCH: The Jackrabbits dipped deep into their list of reserves during the Aug. 31 season opener versus Western Oregon as a total of 76 players saw action in the contest. Offensively, eight Jackrabbits recorded a rushing attempt and eight players caught a pass. On the defensive side of the ball, 23 different players were credited with at least one tackle.

BOCK IS BACK: South Dakota State All-America linebacker Adam Bock has been limited to five games so far this season, but has made starts each of the last three weeks.

After missing the first three games of the season due to injury, the senior from Solon, Iowa, made his season debut in the MVFC opener against North Dakota on Sept. 30 and registered a game-high 10 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss and the team’s first sack of the season.

Bock recorded double figures In tackles for the 12th time in his career as the Jacks limited UND to 68 yards on the ground.

However, Bock was again held out of the lineup in games against Illinois State and Northern Iowa before coming off the bench to record two tackles Oct. 21 at Southern Illinois.

With seven tackles last week at Youngstown State, including a pair of half-sacks, Bock upped his career tackles total to 307, becoming the 12th player in program history to reach that milestone.

WILLIAMSON STEPS UP: With All-American Adam Bock sidelined by injury to start the season, Saiveon Williamson filled the role of middle linebacker without any dropoff in production.

A senior from Waseca, Minnesota, Williamson led the Jackrabbits during the non-conference portion of the schedule with 23 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss and a pass breakup over three games. He currently ranks third on the team with 51 tackles after tying his career high with 11 stops Oct. 7 at Illinois State. Williamson also reached double figures in tackles with 10 against Montana State on Sept. 9.

Williamson also spelled an injured Bock the second half of the conference season and into the playoffs during the 2022 campaign. He finished with 37 tackles to tie for seventh on the squad, including a career-high 11 stops against Delaware in the Jacks’ playoff opener, followed by nine tackles the next week against Holy Cross.

DOUBLE-DUTY DUSTMAN: Junior Hunter Dustman has figured prominently in the Jackrabbits’ special teams efforts the past two seasons.

Dustman handled all of the kicking duties in the 2022 season opener at Iowa, punting 11 times for an average of 41.5 yards (long of 52) and scoring the Jackrabbits’ only points on a 44-yard field goal in the second quarter. Dustman’s 11 punts marked the most by an SDSU player in the Division I era (since 2004).

During the 2022 season, Dustman averaged 42.6 yards per punt and was 18-for-25 on field goals. He made 13 of his last 14 field goal attempts en route to 113 points.

Dustman has strung together a series of strong performances in recent weeks, earning back-to-back MVFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors Oct. 28 and Nov. 4, receiving the award for the third and fourth times in his career.

At Southern Illinois on Oct. 21, he punted four times for an average of 54.2 yards that included a 59-yard boot on his first attempt and a career-long 62-yarder later in the game. He also connected on a 44-yard field goal that gave SDSU a 17-7 lead in the fourth quarter, capping a 15-play, 60-yard drive that consumed more than nine minutes.

Dustman booted three field goals, including a career-long 49-yarder, in the Oct. 28 win at South Dakota, then kicked a career-high four field goals Nov. 4 versus North Dakota State. His recent spree of field goals, including two last week at Youngstown State, has upped his career total to 32 in passing Adam Vinatieri (27 field goals from 1991-94) for seventh place in program history.

In addition, he is averaging 44.9 yards on his 14 punts in league play this season.

 The 2023 edition of the South Dakota State football team features two sets of twin brothers.

Returning for their senior seasons are wide receivers and Madison natives Jadon and Jaxon JankeJaxon Janke has been the team’s leading receiver each of the past three seasons to move into Jackrabbit career top 10s for receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, while Jadon Janke also began the 2023 season in the SDSU top 10 for receiving touchdowns.

Another pair of twins with South Dakota roots are junior linebackers Aaron and Adam Kusler. Aaron played in nine games last season, while Adam has contributed mostly on special teams and saw action in 14 of the team’s 15 games in 2022.

TWIN TOUCHDOWNS: Twin brothers Jadon and Jaxon Janke caught respective touchdown passes of 31 and 60 yards as part of a 20-point first quarter by SDSU Oct. 7 at Illinois State. It marked the eighth time in their careers the dynamic duo from Madison caught TD passes in the same game and the second time they accomplished the feat in the same quarter.

Jadon Janke added a second touchdown catch in the second quarter against Illinois State, covering 22 yards.
Following are the games in which both Jankes have caught touchdown passes:

  • April 24, 2021, vs. Holy Cross — Jadon (13/45 yards in Q2/3), Jaxon (11 yards in Q1);
  • Sept. 25, 2021, at Indiana State — Jadon (33 yards in Q1), Jaxon (42 yards in Q2);
  • Oct. 16, 2021, at Western Illinois — Jadon (8 yards in Q1, Jaxon (21 yards in Q3);
  • Nov. 20, 2021, vs. North Dakota — Jadon (17 yards in Q2), Jaxon (21 yards in Q3);
  • Sept. 17, 2022, vs. Butler — Jadon (17 yards in Q2), Jaxon (7 yards in Q1);
  • Sept. 24, 2022, at Missouri State — Jadon (3/40 yards in Q1/4), Jaxon (13 yards in Q3);
  • Dec. 10, 2022, vs. Holy Cross — Jadon (21 yards in Q4), Jaxon (18 yards in Q4);
  • Oct. 7, 2021, at Illinois State – Jadon (31/22 yards in Q1/2), Jaxon (60 yards in Q1).

THE 12TH MAN: South Dakota State has benefited from large crowds in each of its first five home games of 2023, averaging 18,722 fans after coming off a national championship season.

The Jackrabbits drew their first of four sellout crowds this season when 19,332 fans came out for the Sept. 9 showdown against Montana State, which at the time tied for the second-largest attendance in the seven-year history of Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium. The crowd played a big role in the game, helping factor in nine false-start penalties by Montana State in the game, including six in the final quarter.

The Nov. 4 Dakota Marker game against North Dakota State, which was a rematch from this past January’s FCS national championship game, drew a stadium-record 19,431 fans.

Two other crowds this season have reached sellout status, with 19,357 fans clicking through the turnstiles for the Oct. 14 Hobo Day game versus Northern Iowa and a total of 19,231 fans in attendance for the Sept. 30 league opener with North Dakota.

ACADEMIC SUCCESS: The South Dakota State University football program has maintained its tradition of excellence both on the field and in the classroom during its Division I history.

The Jackrabbits were recognized with the Missouri Valley Football Conference Team Academic Award each of its first nine years in the league.

Last season, several Jackrabbit football players were honored individually for their work in the classroom, highlighted by Reece Winkelman’s repeat selection to the College Sports Communicators Academic All-America First Team, which is made up of student-athletes from both NCAA Division I football classifications.

Winkelman, from Marshall, Minnesota, was selected with a 3.92 GPA as a graduate student in business economics. On the field, he was a first-team all-MVFC selection who racked up eight sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss in 2022.

SDSU has placed at least one player on the Academic All-America squad in 16 of the last 18 seasons, including multiple selections 13 times. Overall, SDSU football student- athletes have received Academic All-America recognition from the College Sports Communicators 45 times since 1974.

During the 2021 season, Wes Genant became the only Jackrabbit football student-athlete to earn Academic All-America honors four times. Three-time selections include: Paul Kippley (1978-80), Kyle Minett (2008-10) and Zach Zenner (2012-14). Zenner was also honored as the 2014 Academic All-America Team Member of the Year.

The Academic All-America program recognizes the nation’s top student-athletes for their combined performances on the field and in the classroom. Candidates must be at least a sophomore in athletic and academic standing, a starter or key reserve on his team and carry at least a 3.5 GPA.

Earlier during the 2022 season, Winkelman was one of eight SDSU football student-athletes to earn recognition on the CSC Academic All-District squad. The others included:

Bock and Winkelman also were repeat first-team selections to the 2022 MVFC Scholar-Athlete Team.

Also earning a spot on the first team was Gronowski, while Janke and fellow wide receiver Canyon Bauer were second-team honorees. Closing out the team’s academic awards during the 2022 season were a total of 74 Jackrabbits receiving recognition on the MVFC Honor Roll for posting a GPA of 3.0 or higher during the fall term.

STAFF SHAKEUP: Besides a change at the top, several new assistant coaches donned the headsets for the first time as Jackrabbits during the Aug. 31 season opener against Western Oregon.

New coaches on the offensive side of the ball include Jake Menage (wide receivers) and Robbie Rouse (running backs). Additions to the defensive staff include Mike Banks (cornerbacks), Jalon Bibbs (defensive line) and Pete Menage (safeties).

Pat Cashmore also is a recent addition to the coaching staff and will direct the special teams units.

Returning for his second season as offensive coordinator is Zach Lujan, with Ryan Olson (run game coordinator/offensive line) and Chris Meyers (tight ends) providing further coaching continuity on the offensive side of the ball.

On defense, Jesse Bobbit is the lone coaching holdover as he moves into the coordinator’s role and also will coach the linebackers after mentoring the safeties in 2022.

Including Jimmy Rogers, five former Jackrabbit football players are full-time coaches at SDSU this season. The others are Bobbit, Lujan and both Menages, who are cousins.

DANA J. DYKHOUSE STADIUM: Jackrabbit football moved into a new home in September of 2016 with the completion of Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.

The stadium, which was constructed in phases on the site of SDSU’s previous home field, Coughlin-Alumni Stadium, seats 19,340 spectators and cost $65 million to build. Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium is being funded through private gifts and long-term revenue streams, including concessions and suite, loge box and ticket sales. Bonds are financing nearly two-thirds of the project’s construction, with the remaining dollars coming from private support. Lead gifts totaling $12.5 million from former Jackrabbit football player and Sioux Falls banker Dana Dykhouse and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford were announced in October 2013.

The stadium officially opened Sept. 8, 2016, featuring a concert by country music stars Luke Bryan, Little Big Town and Lee Brice as part of the Jacks Bash opening weekend. The first football game was two days later, on Sept. 10, when the Jackrabbits defeated Drake, 56-28.

SDSU has gone on to post a 48-7 record at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium during its seven seasons of operation, including an 11-1 mark in FCS playoff games. The Jacks’ current home winning streak is 17 games, with their last home loss a 26-17 setback to Northern Iowa on Oct. 23, 2021.

The Jackrabbits have gone undefeated at home three times while playing at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium: 2018 (7-0), 2020-21 spring season (5-0) and 2022 (9-0).

Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium was designed by Kansas City-based Crawford Architects, with the construction firm JE Dunn serving as the project manager at risk and Henry Carlson Company of Sioux Falls serving as general contractor.

The stadium won the 2017 Alliant Build America Award from the Associated General Contractors of America South Dakota Building Chapter.

JACKS IN THE PROS: In the opening week of the 2023 season, five former South Dakota State standouts were members of National Football League teams, continuing the Jackrabbits’ long tradition of developing players into pro prospects.

Headlining the list is tight end Dallas Goedert of the Philadelphia Eagles. After being drafted in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Goedert has gone on to record 286 receptions for 3,407 yards and 21 touchdowns in six seasons.

In helping lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl during the 2022 season, Goedert caught 55 passes for 703 yards and three touchdowns. Thus far in 2023, Goedert has tallied 38 receptions for 410 yards and two touchdowns, but is currently out with injury.

Linebacker Christian Rozeboom earned a Super Bowl ring with the Los Angeles Rams during the 2021 season. A member of the Rams’ practice squad in 2020, Rozeboom made his NFL debut with the Kansas City Chiefs early in 2021 before returning to Los Angeles and seeing action mostly on special teams for the Rams for the remainder of the regular season and postseason. Rozeboom played in all 17 games during the 2022 season and registered eight tackles.

Rozeboom currently ranks third on the team with 50 total tackles. He recorded his first career interception in the Rams’ Oct. 15 victory over Arizona.

For the first time since 1976, the Jackrabbits saw two players selected in the same NFL Draft following the 2021 campaign. Running back Pierre Strong was a fourth-round selection by the New England Patriots, while quarterback Chris Oladokun was taken by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Strong went on to gain 100 yards on 10 carries and added seven receptions for 42 yards during his rookie season with the Patriots in 2022. He was traded at the end of the most recent training camp to the Cleveland Browns and has contributed 34 carries for 152 yards and a touchdown, as well as two receptions for 34 yards and 120 yards on five kickoff returns, in action thus far in 2023.

Oladokun was released by the Steelers, but was assigned to the practice squad of the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in 2022 and again at the start of 2023.

Another former Jackrabbits who made his NFL debut in 2022 was receiver Cade Johnson, who tallied a pair of receptions during regular season play for the Seattle Seahawks before hauling in three receptions for 39 yards in a playoff game. Johnson began the 2023 season on the Seahawks’ practice squad.

Going through his first NFL training camp in 2023 was tight end Tucker Kraft. A third-round draft choice by the Green Bay Packers, Kraft has tallied three catches for a total of 11 yards thus far in his rookie season.

In addition, wide receiver Jake Wieneke continues to play in the Canadian Football League. After three seasons with the Montreal Alouettes, Wieneke signed with the Saskatchewan Rough Riders for the 2023 season.

ROGERS SHOW: The Jimmy Rogers Radio Show airs throughout the 2023 season.

The weekly, hour-long show originates in front of a live audience once again at Cubby’s Sports Bar and Grill in downtown Brookings. Hosted by Tyler Merriam, the show airs along the Jackrabbit Sports Network, including flagship station WNAX 570 AM, and can be heard through the Jackrabbit app and online at GoJacks.com.

Please note that the show will shift to Thursday nights beginning Nov. 9 due to conflicts with Jackrabbit basketball games.

Weekly segments include interviews with Jackrabbit coaches, student-athletes and others associated with SDSU football. Fans can submit questions through social media platforms and fans in attendance can register for weekly prizes.

A LOOK AHEAD: The 2023 FCS playoff bracket will be announced Sunday, Nov. 19. The selection show will air at 11:30 a.m. on ESPNU. The 24-team playoffs begin with first-round games Nov. 25 at campus sites. The top eight seeds will receive first-round byes and will host the winners of the first-round matchups Dec. 2.