How Did South Dakota State Make the National Championship Game? Jackrabbits Dominate Road Behind Them

    South Dakota State has been ranked No. 1 since Week 1. How did the Jackrabbits dominate on their way to the FCS National Championship?

    The South Dakota State Jackrabbits are the dominant team from the Dakotas as they seek a second-straight FCS National Championship Sunday against the Montana Grizzlies. Riding a 28-game winning streak dating back to their loss against Iowa last September, the Jackrabbits have plowed through the FCS playoffs with little trouble.

    So, how did South Dakota State make the national championship game?

    South Dakota State’s Road to the Championship Game

    From the start of the year, South Dakota State was the team to beat. Last season, the Jackrabbits ran through its playoff competition, winning every game by at least 21 points, capped by a championship win over North Dakota State, 45-21.

    The Jackrabbits carried that momentum into this season, starting the year ranked No. 1 while getting all but one vote for the top spot in the FCS rankings.

    MORE: How Did Montana Make the National Championship?

    Like last season, the Jackrabbits survived a few early scares before finding their groove and running through the competition late. After a first-round bye, the Jackrabbits blanked Mercer 41-0. Villanova posed more of a threat, as South Dakota State led just 10-9 at the half before pulling away late in a 23-12 win.

    In the semifinals, the Jackrabbits returned to their dominant ways, shutting out a strong Albany team 59-0 and waltzing to a second-consecutive championship game. They’ll face a surging Montana team fresh off three thrilling wins there.

    Players Who Led South Dakota State

    The Jackrabbits are loaded up and down the roster but have been led by a strong group of seniors, especially on offense.

    Quarterback Mark Gronowski has been a 3-year starter and might be his best this season. He’s thrown for nearly 3000 yards and 28 touchdowns with just four interceptions. He’s added 349 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.

    In the running game, it all goes through Isaiah Davis. The senior has run for nearly 4500 yards in his career, including 1491 as a senior. He’s added 17 touchdowns and has run for 100 yards each game of the playoffs, averaging 7.1 yards a carry in the process.

    The two leading receivers are twins Jadon and Jaxon Janke. Jadon has 52 catches for 891 yards and nine touchdowns, while Jaxon has 47 catches for 752 yards and five touchdowns. Against a tough Montana front, Gronowski may need to air it out to the Janke brothers for South Dakota State to move the ball consistently.

    The Jackrabbit defense is talented and experienced, led by one of the best secondaries in recent memories. Safeties Isaiah Stalbird and Tucker Large and corners Dalys Beanum and DyShawn Gales have had a remarkable season, picking off 11 passes and allowing just three touchdowns in coverage.

    A senior-laden team with experience on this stage, South Dakota State is worthy of its status as a 13-point favorite in Sunday’s FCS National Championship

    Miss any action from the top college QB Rankings during the 2023 football season? Want to track all the movement with the college football’s transfer portal? College Football Network has you covered with that and more!

    College Football Transfer Portal Tracker

    Never miss a beat with the CFN-exclusive College Football Transfer Portal Tracker, listing the student-athletes entering and exiting the transfer portal.

    Related Articles