South Dakota State repeated as the national champion in the Football Championship Subdivision with a 23-3 win over Montana in the title game at Frisco’s Toyota Stadium on Sunday.
The game began as a defensive battle, but the Jackrabbits pulled away with 16 points in the third quarter behind quarterback Mark Gronowski for a convincing win over one of the nation’s elite defensive teams.
“Couldn’t be more proud of these guys and the whole team,” South Dakota State head coach Jimmy Rogers told the media postgame. “[It] takes a whole team to get this much done, especially with the hype that surrounded this football program. We never paid much attention to it. We stayed consistent. We worked extremely hard week in and week out.”
Both teams came into the matchup as defensively-driven teams that liked to rely on the running game on offense. However, Montana found its most success through the passing game, throwing for over 200 yards, while South Dakota State held the Grizzlies’ rushing attack well below its season average.
“This is the best defense in FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) history, and I’m proud of that, proud of this football team, proud to go back to back, proud to do it with these guys, and blessed to be the head coach of South Dakota State,” Rogers added.
South Dakota State’s offense was much more balanced, throwing for 175 yards and running for 188, as both Gronowski and running back Isaiah Davis, the FCS’s leading rusher, scored touchdowns on the ground.
The Jackrabbits started quickly, as Davis found the endzone on the game’s first drive to take a 7-0 lead. After turning the ball over on downs, Montana’s defense came up with an early interception to take over at the SDSU 33-yard line. The Grizzlies would get a field goal, but it was all Jackrabbits from there.
Montana had two more turnovers in the first half, trailing 7-3 at halftime, and had four total turnovers throughout the game, as South Dakota State scored two early touchdowns to take further control of the ballgame.
Gronowski needed just five plays to go 58 yards, scoring on a 10-yard run, to go up 14-3 halfway through the third quarter. He later found Jadon Janke for a 23-yard score to make it a three-possession game, and the Jackrabbits added a field goal to finish things off.
Montana drove into South Dakota State territory twice in the fourth quarter but could not score as it turned the ball over on downs both times.
Gronowski earned the game’s MVP award with his performance.
The Jackrabbits (15-0) have won 29 consecutive games and will put their winning streak on the line as they begin their quest for a three-peat against Oklahoma State in September.