Jacks Go Back To Back For FCS Championship

South Dakota State’s stifling defense continued its impressive postseason run, holding Montana out of the end zone while the Jackrabbits put up a 16-point third quarter to pull away for a 23-3 victory Sunday afternoon at Toyota Stadium to earn their second consecutive Football Championship Subdivision national title. A pair of area players earned a second Championship Ring. Former Orab Ryan Van Marl was a part of the defensive shut out on the defensive line. Offensive lineman Garrett Greenfield also earned his second ring on the Jacks offensive line.
 
The top-seeded Jackrabbits ended the season with a 15-0 record and extended their overall winning streak to 29 games. Montana, seeded second, ended the campaign with a 13-2 overall record.
 
Both teams put together time-consuming drives on their first possessions of the game before the defenses took center stage for the remainder of the first half. SDSU took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards on 11 plays, reaching the end zone on a 6-yard touchdown run by Isaiah Davis 6 minutes and 52 seconds into the contest. The Jackrabbits moved into Montana territory on a 26-yard catch and run by Jaxon Janke on a pass from Mark Gronowski on the second play from scrimmage and converted twice on third-down plays.
 
Montana turned in its own methodical drive on its initial possession and was on the verge of tying the game. However, on the 15th and final play of the drive from the SDSU 1, Adam Bock stopped Grizzly running back Eli Gillman short of the goal line on a fourth-down play to keep Montana off the board.
 
The Grizzlies produced what would be their only points of the game on their possession as they took advantage of an interception with N. Ramos converting a 30-yard field goal.
 
The two squads combined to punt on each of their next four possessions, with the final possession of the first half ending when SDSU cornerback Dalys Beanum intercepted Montana’s Hail Mary pass attempt in the end zone at the horn to keep the score 7-3.
 
SDSU’s defense forced two more takeaways in the third quarter as the Jackrabbits continually harassed Montana quarterback Clifton McDowell. Defensive tackle Brian Williams jarred the ball loose from McDowell and DyShawn Gales recovered the fumble on the Grizzlies’ opening possession of the second half and Cade Terveer added a strip-sack with Ryan Van Marel recovering later in the quarter.
 
In between, the Jackrabbits went up 14-3 with their second touchdown of the game midway through the third period. Gronowski connected with tight end Zach Heins on a 34-yard pass play to set the Jackrabbits up first and goal, then Gronowski found paydirt from 10 yards out on the next play.
 
On the next SDSU possession, Gronowski, who was named Most Outstanding Player of the championship game for the second year in a row, hooked up with Jadon Janke for a 23-yard touchdown pass.
 
SDSU closed out the scoring with a 32-yard field goal by Hunter Dustman following Terveer’s strip-sack. Dustman also held Montana’s punt return game in check by landing all five of his punts inside the Grizzlies’ 20-yard line, including two at the 5.
 
Montana would move the ball into SDSU territory on a couple occasions in the fourth quarter, only to come up empty as the Jackrabbits tallied a season-high five sacks and notched eight tackles for loss. Terveer and Quinton Hicks each posted 1.5 sacks while Bock paced the SDSU defense with 11 tackles. Jason Freeman added nine stops.
 
SDSU finished with a 363-259 advantage in total offense. Gronowski completed 13-of-21 passes for 175 yards, with Jadon Janke hauling in five catches for 55 yards and twin brother, Jaxon, contributing four catches for 66 yards. Davis led the ground attack with 87 yards on 16 carries, with Gronowski adding 53 yards on eight rushing attempts.
 
Montana was limited to 47 net yards rushing on 30 attempts as Gillman and Nick Ostmo each gained 18 yards on seven and six attempts, respectively. McDowell ended the afternoon 22-of-39 passing for 165 yards with Keali’I Ah Yat going 6-for-7 passing for 47 yards in late-game action.
 
The Grizzlies’ Braxton Hill led all players with 12 tackles, including their lone sack.

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