CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – Pierre Strong Jr. caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Mark Gronowski with 19 seconds remaining to lift No. 5 South Dakota State to a 24-20 victory over third-ranked Northern Iowa in a season-opening Missouri Valley Football Conference game Friday night at the UNI-Dome.
That capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive that lasted 5 minutes, 4 seconds.
The Jackrabbits did not have a first down in the second half until the closing drive.
Gronowski, a true freshman from Naperville, Illinois, finished 19-of-29 for 194 yards with two touchdowns through the air and ran for 24 yards and a score.
Strong accumulated 91 yards on 22 rushes and added six receptions for 31 yards.
SDSU outgained UNI 310-193 in total offense, limiting the Panthers to just 28 yards on the ground.
Jackrabbit junior Cole Frahm opened the scoring with a 24-yard field goal at the 10:16 mark of the opening period.
UNI quarterback Will McElvain found the end zone from 7 yards out 7 minutes later to put the Panthers on top.
Gronowski’s first career TD toss was a 6-yarder to Madison native Jaxon Janke 5:14 before halftime. He added a 5-yard scoring scamper 4 minutes later to give the Jackrabbits a 17-7 advantage at intermission.
UNI’s Matthew Cook had field goals of 43 yards (5:32, third) and 35 yards (8:35, fourth) to pull the home squad within 17-13.
Jared Brinkman came up with a strip sack on Gronowski. The ball bounced around and was eventually recovered by Benny Sapp – SDSU’s second turnover of the game – at the Jackrabbit 19-yard-line with 6:48 showing on the clock.
Two plays later, McElvain hooked up with Tysen Kershaw for a go-ahead 14-yard touchdown toss with 5:59 to play – making it 20-17 and setting the stage for the Jackrabbits’ winning drive.
SDSU’s Zach Heins had 90 yards on five receptions.
Adam Bock (sack), Brookings native Preston Tetzlaff, Logan Backhaus and Don Gardner led a balanced defensive effort with five tackles apiece.
For UNI, McElvain ended up 19-of-29 for 165 yards with the TD. Korby Sander made 13 stops.
South Dakota State returns to action at North Dakota on Saturday. Kickoff at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks is set for noon.
No. 5 SOUTH DAKOTA STATE 24,
No. 3 NORTHERN IOWA 20
SDSU (1-0) 3 14 0 7 – 24
UNI (0-1) 7 0 3 10 – 20
SDSU – Cole Frahm 24 FG, 10:16
UNI – Will McElvain 7 run (Matthew Cook kick), 3:06
SDSU – Jaxon Janke 6 pass from Mark Gronowski (Frahm kick), 5:14
SDSU – Gronowski 5 run (Frahm kick), 1:24
UNI – Cook 43 FG, 5:32
UNI – Cook 35 FG, 8:35
UNI – Tysen Kershaw 14 pass from McElvain (Cook kick), 5:59
SDSU – Pierre Strong Jr. 1 pass from Gronowski (Frahm kick), :19
First Downs 14 13
Plays-Yards 63-310 54-193
Rushes-Yards 34-116 25-28
C-A-Int.-Yards 19-29-0-194 19-29-0-165
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 0-0
Penalties-Yards 9-80 4-20
Punts-Avg.-I20-TB 5-40.6-0-0 7-38.3-1-1
Kickoffs-Avg.-TB 5-39.2-3 5-64.4-3
Punt Returns-Yards-TD 2-33-0 2-11-0
Kickoff Returns-Yards-TD 2-46-0 0-0-0
Interception Returns-Yards-TD 0-0-0 0-0-0
Fumble Returns-Yards-TD 0-0-0 0-0-0
Miscellaneous Yards 0 0
Possession Time 28:22 27:25
Third-down Conversions 5-of-13 2-of-12
Fourth-down Conversions 0-of-1 0-of-0
Red Zone Chances-TD-FG 4-3-1 3-2-1
Sacks By-Yards 2-15 2-8
Field Goals 1-for-1 2-for-3
RUSHING: SDSU – Pierre Strong Jr. 22-91, Mark Gronowski 10-24, Isaiah Davis 1-2, TEAM 1-(-1). UNI – Dom Williams 14-28, Will McElvain 7-0, Nick McCabe 4-0.
PASSING: SDSU – Mark Gronowski 19-29-0-194. UNI – Will McElvain 19-29-0-165.
RECEIVING: SDSU – Zach Heins 5-90, Pierre Strong Jr. 6-31, Jaxon Janke 4-29, Jadon Janke 1-20, Isaiah Davis 1-18, Canyon Bauer 1-3, Michael Morgan 1-3. UNI – Quan Hampton 7-65, Deion McShane 4-36, Tysen Kershaw 2-34, Nick Phillips 3-16, Kyle Fourtenbary 2-9, Dom Williams 1-5.
DEFENSE: SDSU – Adam Bock 5 tackles, sack; Logan Backhaus 5 tackles; Don Gardner 5 tackles; Preston Tetzlaff 5 tackles; Michael Griffin sack. UNI – Korby Sander 13 tackles, .5 sack, FF; Spence Cuveller 9 tackles; Benny Sapp 7 tackles, FR; Eric Mooney FR; Jared Brinkman sack, FF; Brawntae Wells .5 sack.
A – 2,137.
• North Dakota 44, No. 24 Southern Illinois 21
GRAND FORKS, N.D. – The Fighting Hawks forced five turnovers – highlighted by Devon Krzanowski’s 36-yard scoop and score – in the defeat of the Salukis.
Tied at 7-all after a quarter, UND led 16-14 at halftime and then pulled away in the third, moving ahead 37-14.
Tommy Schuster went 15-of-23 for 118 yards with three touchdowns through the air.
Otis Weah ran for 91 yards and Luke Skokna 70 as both players found the end zone. Bo Belquist, Dalton Gee and Brett Finke had TD catches. Adam Stage added a field goal.
Sammy Fort and Evan Holm intercepted passes and Noah Larson and Graham DeVore added fumble recoveries.
SIU’s Nic Baker was 12-of-23 for 153 yards with two INTs and Javan Williams Jr. went 12-of-14 for 74 yards with a score. Avante Cox picked up 107 yards on seven receptions.
• No. 1 North Dakota State 25, Youngstown State 7
FARGO, N.D. – The Bison picked up where they left off, extending their FCS-record winning streak to a 39 games.
NDSU outgained YSU 317-171 in total yards of offense, including 243-51 on the ground.
Kobe Johnson ran 16 times for 114 yards and a score. Jalen Bussey found the end zone twice. Zeb Noland was 9-of-18 for 74 yards passing. Jake Reinholz booted a field goal.
Jackson Hankey made 14 stops and James Kaczor added 11. Spencer Waege logged 2 1/2 of the team’s seven sacks.
The Penguins’ Mark Waid went 8-of-11 for 75 yards with a TD toss to Jake Coates.