FCS Playoffs: #5 South Dakota State Beats #4 Kennesaw State, Advances to Semifinals
After enduring bitter Midwest winter weather the last two games, fifth-seeded South Dakota State slogged through a driving Southern rain Saturday (December 8) and beat fourth-seeded Kennesaw State, 27-17 to advance to the semifinals in the 2018 FCS Playoffs.
The victory sets up a rematch with top-seeded North Dakota State for a spot in the FCS Championship game in Texas in early January. The semifinal game in the Fargodome will be Friday (December 14) at 7:00 PM. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2.
In Georgia Saturday, each team had to overcome some adversity in the first half on a rainy day just outside Atlanta.
The Jackrabbits (10-2) first possession ended three plays in as Taryn Christion was picked off on the Owls 23.
SDSU's defense got the ball back on downs, but punted it away after a three-and-out.
Kennesaw State's first turnover of the game came moments later as quarterback Chandler Burks fumbled and Eric Kleinschmit recovered at the KSU 35, leading to a Chase Vinatieri 24-yard field goal and a 3-0 SDSU lead.
The home team took advantage of a pair of 15-yard Jackrabbits penalties on the next drive, but stalled inside the SDSU five-yard line and settled for a 20-yard game tying field goal.
The South Dakota State special teams set the offense up on the ensuing kickoff as Cade Johnson returned the ball 48 yards to the KSU 46. That set up a Christion to Adam Anderson five-yard touchdown pass on third-and-goal and put the Jacks up 10-3 early in the second quarter.
After Brurks went to the bench with a wrist injury, backup quarterback Daniel David looked to have helped KSU to a fourth down conversion on the next drive, but a holding penalty wiped it off the board and the Owls gave it up on downs on fourth and 14.
The Jackrabbits parlayed the opportunity into another touchdown drive, converting on a pair of third downs, the second a Pierre Strong Jr. nine-yard touchdown run to put SDSU up 17-3 at halftime.
In the second half, South Dakota State had a chance to go up 21 points after a Kal Hart 38-yard reception moved the ball into the red zone. But a false start penalty on first-and-goal from the three moved the ball back and the Jacks had to settle for another Vinatieri field goal to go up 20-3.
The Kennesaw State offense, the third highest scoring unit in the country, started rolling after that.
The Owls drove 73 yards on seven plays and put it in the end zone for the first time as David hit Jake McKenzie for 19 yards to cut the SDSU lead to 20-10 early in the fourth quarter.
After a Jackrabbit punt pinned the Owls back at their own nine, KSU used a 35-yard run and a 38-yard completion to key a nine play, 91-yard touchdown drive, which ended with a David one-yard scoring run and the Jackrabbit lead was now just 20-17.
South Dakota State got the ball back with 6:35 left needing to chew up some time and put some points on the board.
The drive seemed destined to stall after a false start on second down left SDSU with a third and 12, but Christion scrambled and found Johnson for a first down and later Christion found the end zone on a 15-yard touchdown run to put the game out of reach.
Strong finished with 112 yards rushing for SDSU. Christion was 12-of-18 through the air for 147 yards and a touchdown passing and running.
The loss was the first in 16 games at home for Kennesaw State, snapping the third longest home winning streak in FCS.