SDSU dominates Drake at Target Field

Andrew Holtan, The Brookings Register
Posted 9/15/23

Had South Dakota State been playing Drake in baseball on Saturday afternoon at Target Field the Jackrabbits would have won by the 10-run rule. Instead the two schools were playing football and SDSU ran away with a 70-7 victory at the home of the Minnesota Twins.

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SDSU dominates Drake at Target Field


MINNEAPOLIS – Had South Dakota State been playing Drake in baseball on Saturday afternoon at Target Field the Jackrabbits would have won by the 10-run rule. Instead the two schools were playing football and SDSU ran away with a 70-7 victory at the home of the Minnesota Twins.

“It was an unbelievable experience,” said SDSU head coach Jimmy Rogers. “To play in this type of venue and for Jackrabbit nation to show up again. Not sure the exact attendance, but 18-19,000 fans to come support us at a neutral site game is unbelievable.”

The Bulldogs went up 7-0 and SDSU proceeded to score 70 unanswered points. It was the most points for the Jacks since 2018 when SDSU scored 90 points against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. 

Drake opened the game with a three-play 83-yard touchdown drive. Luke Bailey found Colin Howard for a 53-yard pass on the first play from scrimmage and two plays later he connected with Howard again for a 35-yard touchdown to make it 7-0 just over two minutes into the game.

SDSU would then score 35 unanswered points to close out the first half. Isaiah Davis got the Jacks on the board with a 23-yard touchdown reception. SDSU then took the lead on its next possession as Mark Gronowski found Kevin Brenner for a three-yard touchdown to make it 14-7 with 4:12 left in the first half.

SDSU then took a 21-7 lead with 10:28 left in the first half as Gronowski found Zach Heins for a 13-yard touchdown. Amar Johnson then got into the mix with a one-yard touchdown run to make it 28-7. Gronowski then found Griffin Wilde for his fourth touchdown of the first half. This time it was an 18-yard score and SDSU led 35-7 at halftime.

Gronowski picked up right where he left off in the second half and this time he scored with his legs. He ran into the end zone from five yards out to make it 42-7 with just over two minutes into the second half. He then threw a one-yard touchdown to Jaxon Janke to make it 49-7.

The six total touchdowns and five passing touchdowns were a new career-high for Gronowski. He finished the day 18-for-25 with 226 yards and had 19 yards rushing.

“I have to give credit to the O-line for having great pass protection all day,” Gronowski said. “Even the running backs were picking up blocks. [Drake] was bringing pressure all day and we just took advantage of it.”

SDSU then pulled its starters but the scoring did not stop for the Jacks. Angel Johnson ran in a 21-yard touchdown to make it 56-7. Backup quarterback Chase Mason then took one 69 yards to the house to make it 63-7.

Mason, who did not play all of last season after injuring his knee in spring practice, has now scored a rushing touchdown in each of his two games for SDSU. Gronowski said it’s been great to see Mason succeed when he’s gotten into the game.

“It really hurt to see [Mason] go down last year because I’ve been through that pain and know what it feels like. To see him have success when he’s back out there [is nice to see]. He just has so much fun while he’s out there and he and I have had a great relationship and have grown throughout the past year. It’s just awesome to see his success,” Gronowski said.

Angel Johnson would then put an exclamation point on the win for the Jacks as he broke free and stormed 66 yards to the end zone to make it 70-7 with eight minutes to go.

SDSU finished the day with 618 total yards of offense. It was the first time since 2018 that the Jacks had over 600 yards of offense. SDSU had 359 yards rushing and four players rushed for more than 60 yards. Angel Johnson led the way with 90 yards on four carries. Davis had 77 yards on eight carries, Mason had 69 yards on one carry and Amar Johnson had 63 yards on 12 carries.

“I thought it was smooth in transition [on offense today],” Rogers said. “I was really happy when the second string O-line got in and there was really no drop off. I think you can really tell what a program is made of when you look at whoever plays up front for them you can see future success.”

Jaxon Janke led the SDSU receiving core with seven catches for 85 yards. Davis had three catches for 47 yards. Brenner’s touchdown was the first catch of his career.

A week after having a bad night on special teams against Montana State, SDSU had a nice day on special teams on Saturday, specifically in the punt return game. Sophomore safety Tucker Large had four punt returns on the day and had an average of 24 yards per return. Large’s longest return of the day was 61 yards and Rogers said his special team units wanted to turn it around on Saturday.

“Our guys take pride in being on [the special teams] units. They’re not always starters at every single position, but they’re starters on special teams and need to know that their role matters. I think statistically you’ll see in the punt return average what Tucker Large is capable of and the pride in which the guys have blocking for him. Those things are important,” Rogers said.

The total attendance on Saturday was 18,174 and it was a sea of blue and yellow. Gronowski said after the game that it was an experience that he won’t forget.

“It was an awesome experience,” Gronowski said. “Coming out [Friday], it was kind of a surreal experience. To be playing on a baseball field and how it looked. It’s been one of my dreams since I was kid and watching Northwestern play at Wrigley Field. Getting this opportunity, it was a once in a lifetime type of thing.”

SDSU will have its bye week next and will then open up conference play at home against North Dakota on Sept. 30. Rogers said there are still a lot of things that the Jacks need to work on during their week off, but he took a moment at the end of his press conference to take in how far his program has come.

“I’m blessed to coach this football team because of who is on this team. This place has grown so much. I’m blessed,” Rogers said.