BROOKINGS – It didn’t take long for the South Dakota State football team to take care of Division II Lindenwood Saturday night. The Jackrabbits routed the Lions 52-7 in their home opener at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.
“Really, really excited with how we came out of the chute offensively and defensively,” said SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier. “… We got to play a number of guys, we got to win a football game in front of a great crowd, on a beautiful night. It’s a great day to be a member of our Jackrabbit football family.”
It took SDSU three plays and a minute and 13 seconds to get on the scoreboard. Pierre Strong Jr. ran it in from seven yards out to make it 7-0. The Jacks would force a Lions punt and score four minutes later on a four-yard pass from Chris Oladokun to Zach Heins to make it 14-0 with 7:20 left in the first quarter.
Sophomore running back Isaiah Davis had two rushes for 38 yards that set up the Heins touchdown, but injured his upper arm/shoulder on the second run. He did not return and Stiegelmeier said he will miss significant time.
“He’s got a pretty serious injury. He’s going to be out for awhile. We’ll find out more on Monday, but it looks like a decent amount of time,” Stiegelmeier said.
Oladokun would connect with Heins once again five minutes later, this time from two yards out and it was 21-0 at the end of the first quarter. The Jacks outgained the Lions 219-45 in the first frame.
Strong broke off a 68-yard run to open the second quarter and Oladokun found Tucker Kraft for a five-yard touchdown with 12:42 left in the first half. The Jacks would then force a turnover on downs and take over at their own 29. SDSU would score six plays later on a 13-yard pass from Oladokun to Kraft to make it 35-0 with 8:36 left in the first half.
Oladokun was pulled after that drive and finished 12-for-14 with 171 yards and four touchdowns. Pierre Strong also exited the game and rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. Strong eclipsed the 3,000-yard mark for his career during the game and moved into sixth place on the programs all-time rushing list.
Stiegelmeier said after SDSU’s 42-23 win over Colorado State last week that he thought Strong had maybe found another gear during the offseason. Senior offensive lineman Eagan Lickiss backed that statement up after Saturday’s win.
“He’s fast. He is speedy quick and it’s great. We do our job and we make it easy for Pierre to pop big runs and it’s been real nice to see him get some nice yardage,” Lickiss said.
Cole Frahm connected on a 54-yard field goal with 3:07 left in the half to make it 38-0. Graham Spalding would intercept a pass on the Lindenwood 45 yard line on the Lions ensuing possession. SDSU would then make it 45-0 just before halftime when Keton Heide found Mason Leighton for a 14-yard touchdown. The Jacks scored on all seven of their possessions in the first half.
Freshman running back Amar Johnson joined the scoring when he walked into the end zone from one yard out to make it 52-0 midway through the third quarter. Lindenwood would get on the board eight seconds into the fourth quarter as Payton Rose found Cade Brister from 37 yards out to make it 52-7. Neither team would score the rest of the way.
Heide went 3-for-5 with 54 yards and a touchdown. Johnson ran for 105 yards on 15 carries.
Stiegelmeier said Johnson will be the one to takeover as the backup running back after the Davis injury.
“It was very important [to get Johnson carries in this game]. You could see with how much we ran Amar, and played him there, that’s his job now, and he showed up. He did a nice job against the No. 1’s when he was in there. Proud of him and proud of our offense to have that vision,” Stiegelmeier said.
Josh Buri, who played his senior high school season for Brookings, ran for 21 yards on six carries.
Jaxon Janke caught two passes for 64 yards and Jadon Janke had 41 yards on three catches. Kraft had four catches for 38 yards and Leighton had two catches for 43 yards. Heins only had two catches, but they were both touchdowns.
SDSU outgained Lindenwood 560-196. The Jacks had 330 passing yards and 230 rushing yards while averaging 9.2 yards per play.
The Jacks have a bye next weekend and Stiegelmeier guaranteed that his team will improve during what he calls an improvement week.
“We don’t call it a bye week, we call it an improvement week,” Stiegelmeier said. “… We want to get better. Our coaches will hand me their grade sheets late on Sunday, and they will have the grades of the players, and then they’ll also have three things the position group has to work on the most, and that will be the start. Whether it’s tackling by the linebackers or pull blocks by the offensive line. Because we have to get better, we have a week to get better. We’re also going to rest our bodies some, we’re not going to beat each other up. But I can promise you we’ll be a better program at the end of next week than we were going into it. That’s our job.”
SDSU returns to play Sept. 25 when the Jacks open up Missouri Valley play at Indiana State. Kickoff between the Sycamores and the Jacks is scheduled for noon Central time.