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South Dakota State returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the first half and added more big plays on the offensive side of the ball to begin the defense of its Football Championship Subdivision national title with a 45-7 victory over Western Oregon before a Dairy Drive crowd of 16,258 Thursday night at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.

Top-ranked SDSU extended its school-record winning streak to 15 games in the season opener for both squads. Thursday's game also marked the first for the Jackrabbits under new head coach Jimmy Rogers.


SDSU scored on each of its first three offensive possessions in building a 35-0 lead through the first 20 minutes of the contest. The Jackrabbits took the opening kickoff and proceeded to march 72 yards on seven plays, the last 31 of which came on a Mark Gronowski pass to freshman wide receiver Griffin Wilde over the middle. Gronowski completed all four of his pass attempts on the drive for 58 yards.

Eighty seconds later, the SDSU defense tallied its first points of the night when DyShawn Gales deflected a pass into the hands of safey Colby Huerter, who returned the interception 54 yards for a touchdown.

The Jackrabbits extended their lead to 42-0 with two more touchdowns in the second quarter — both on quarterback scrambles. First, Gronowski found paydirt from 6 yards out, while backup Chase Mason capped his first career drive directing the SDSU offense by slicing through the Wolves defense for a 33-yard scoring run.


Gronowski ended the night 8-for-10 passing for 121 yards, while Mason completed 5-of-9 attempts for 67 yards and added 40 rushing yards on three carries.

Western Oregon, meanwhile, ended the shutout bid with a touchdown with 3 minutes and 47 seconds remaining in the game. Backup quarterback Jordan McCarty led the Wolves on a six-play, 78-yard drive that ended with McCarty scoring from 9 yards out. A 24-yard run by Jermaine Land on the preceding play gave WOU first and goal.

SDSU finished with a 403-209 advantage in total offense. Amar Johnson paced the Jackrabbit rushing attack with 70 yards on eight carries, while Wilde was the leading receiver with four catches for 79 yards.

The Jackrabbits host nationally ranked Montana State in the annual Beef Bowl game on Sept. 9. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. in what will be a rematch of last season's national semifinal playoff game.

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