Jacks roll to fifth straight win
South Dakota State scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams as the 20th-ranked Jackrabbits rolled to their fifth consecutive victory with a 31-10 win over Western Illinois Saturday night at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium.
SDSU improved to 5-1 on the season and took over sole possession of first place in the Missouri Valley Football Conference with a 3-0 mark. Western Illinois dropped to 3-3 overall, 1-2 in league play.
Senior Tyrel Kool set the tone out of the gates, returning the opening kickoff 100 yards untouched to put the Jackrabbits out to a 7-0 lead 13 seconds into the game.
Western Illinois tied the game moments later as Martinez Davis returned an interception 28 yards for the Fighting Leathernecks' lone touchdown of the night.
Walter Payton Award candidate Zach Zenner continued his rushing prowess, scoring on the first play of the second quarter. Zenner took a handoff and zigged and zagged his way through the right side for a 46-yard touchdown run.
A 23-yard field goal by Pat Smith midway through the second quarter capped WIU's most extensive drive of the night, a 16-play, 76-yard march, to pull the Fighting Leathernecks to within 14-10. WIU converted on a pair of third-down attempts and a fourth-down play to keep the drive alive.
The second half belonged to the Jackrabbits, who again struck early in a quarter as Skyler Luxa picked off a Wil Lunt pass and rumbled along the left sideline for a 23-yard touchdown 62 seconds into the third quarter.
Justin Syrovatka gave SDSU more breathing room on a 29-yard field goal to open the fourth quarter and Zenner capped the scoring with a 60-yard touchdown run straight up the middle with 9:27 to play in the game.
Zenner finished the night with 19 carries for 171 yards and added a pair of receptions for 20 yards.
The Jackrabbit defense limited Western Illinois to 19 yards rushing and 1-of-9 on third-down attempts in pitching the second half shutout. Ross Shafrath led SDSU with 12 tackles, followed by seven from fellow linebacker T.J. Lally.
SDSU finished with a 345-264 edge in total offense, including a 209-60 advantage on the ground.
Caulton Ray led Western Illinois with 46 yards rushing on 13 carries. Lunt completed 20-of-38 passes for 204 yards, with Charles Chestnut leading the receiving corps with nine catches for 123 yards.
The Jackrabbits return to action Oct. 20 at Northern Iowa. Kickoff is slated for 4 p.m. at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
NOTES: SDSU leads the all-time series, 6-4, and has won all five meetings between the two squads as members of the Missouri Valley Football Conference ... the Jackrabbits improved to 24-11 in MVFC games since joining the league in 2008, including 13-5 at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium ... SDSU ran its MVFC winning streak to six games and overall winning streak against Football Championship Subdivision opponents to a program-best eight games ... Zenner's 171 yards were a season-low by 11 yards and he failed to crack the 100-yard mark by halftime for the first time this season ... Zenner ended the day with 1,248 yards (208 yards per game) ... Zenner's eight touchdown runs this season have covered a total of 469 yards, an average of 58.6 yards per scoring run ... Zenner moved into ninth place on the Jackrabbit single-season rushing charts, passing Dan Nelson (1,150 yards in 1993) and Kyle Minett (1,208 yards in 2010) ... Kool's 100-yard kickoff return for touchdown matched the longest in school history previously set by Kevin Brown at Minnesota State, Mankato, in 2002 ... Kool's kickoff return for a touchdown was the first by a Jackrabbit since Adam Monke scored on a 91-yard return on the opening kickoff against Cal Poly on Oct. 20, 2007 ... attendance for the annual Hall of Fame Game and Military Appreciation Night was 10,727 ... among the Jackrabbit Sports Hall of Fame inductees was former football player and longtime NFL offensive lineman Adam Timmerman