Saluki defenders, PJ Jules, 4, and Raquan Lindsey, 44, make a tackle during Saturday’s game at Saluki Stadium on March 20, 2021. SIU lost to South Dakota State by the score of 44-3. (Angel Chevrestt | @sobrofotos)
Saluki defenders, PJ Jules, 4, and Raquan Lindsey, 44, make a tackle during Saturday’s game at Saluki Stadium on March 20, 2021. SIU lost to South Dakota State by the score of 44-3.

Angel Chevrestt | @sobrofotos

Jackrabbits score 44 unanswered points in rout of SIU

March 20, 2021

Four turnovers, with two interceptions coming from senior quarterback Kare Lyles in the second half led to a 44-3 win for South Dakota State.

“Every phase we got beat, we got out-coached; we’ve all got to be better,” Saluki head coach Nick Hill said. “We just couldn’t get into any sort of rhythm.”

The Salukis (4-2, 3-2 MVC) came into the game looking to get their third top-10 win of the season against South Dakota State.

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South Dakota State (4-1, 4-1) had scored on the opening drive of every game they had played this season, but on a 33-yard field goal, senior defensive end Jordan Berner blocked the attempt giving the Salukis the ball back with the score tied.

Two rushes of over 10 yards put the Salukis in the red zone on their opening drive, with junior wide receiver Avante Cox rushing for 26 yards, and sophomore running back Romier Elliott rushing for 11.

With SIU on the SDSU two yard line, a bad snap to sophomore running back Javon Williams Jr. looked like a fumble, which was recovered by the Jackrabbits.

A review of the play by the officials ruled it as an incomplete pass, though and SIU was held on their third down attempt where senior kicker Nico Gualdoni made the 27-yard field goal to give the Salukis a 3-0 lead with just under two minutes remaining in the first quarter.

On their next possession, the Jackrabbits would fumble the ball at the Saluki 27 yard line, but the Southern offense was unable to convert, being forced to punt.

SDSU would elect to run the ball much of their next possession, picking up 52 yards on the ground, including a four yard run freshman quarterback Mark Gronowski, which ended in a touchdown. The extra point was good, giving the Jackrabbits a 7-3 lead.

After the SDSU touchdown, the Salukis moved the ball well getting up to the SIU 49 yard line when junior quarterback Stone Labanowitz connected with senior wide receiver Landon Lenoir with a five yard pass.

With the Jackrabbits line collapsing in on him, Labanowitz would break free for an eight yard run to pick up a first down, but on the next passing, play he would throw an interception.

SDSU would take advantage of the turnover by Southern, with Gronowski connecting with a 20 yard pass, and breaking off for a 17 yard run to put them on the SIU 12 yard line.

That would set up the 31 yard field goal for the Jackrabbits which junior kicker Cole Frahm would hit to put them up 17-3 heading into halftime.

Senior quarterback Kare Lyles replaced Labanowitz and on his first play the ball was intercepted by senior linebacker Don Gardner.

“Felt like us being down we were going to need to push the ball a little bit. We didn’t have any explosive plays,” Hill said. “I said that going into the game they both needed to be ready to play.”

The third turnover of the game by the Salukis turned into seven more points for the Jackrabbits, as Gronowski would run it in for 12 yards and the extra point was good to make it 24-3.

On fourth and two at the SIU 33 yard line, Lyles attempted a pass to Cox which was just high.

With the ball back in their hands SDSU would march down to the Southern 13 yard line and the Saluki defense would hold the Jackrabbits to a 30-yard field goal to lead SIU 27-3.

“This game will humble you pretty quick, and that was a long whatever it was 24, 25 minutes of the game,” Hill said. “We weren’t going to quit, gotta give a lot of credit to South Dakota State they’ve had our number they’ve beat us five times in a row.”

Lyles would throw his second interception of the game on his third series, and SDSU would score a touchdown off the turnover with a one yard run and the extra point was good extending their lead to 34-3 with 7:36 left in the third quarter.

Lyles would be sacked for a 10 yard loss on third down, and freshman running back Isaiah Davis would break free for the Jackrabbits for a 45 yard run to extend their lead out to 41-3.

SDSU would add three more points with a 10 play drive ending with a 40 yard field goal made by freshman kicker Hunter Dustman with 3:28 left in the game.

The Jackrabbits would put up 44 unanswered points on SIU, using four turnovers to win the game 44-3.

“I know this group, we’ve been through a lot of ups and downs over the years,” Hill said. “I know what their attitude will be. I’m confident this group will show up tomorrow and take ownership.”

Up next for Southern, they will travel to Missouri State on Saturday with kickoff set for 2pm.

Sports Reporter Adam Warfel can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @warfel_adam.

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