The Jackrabbits Scored All the Second Half Points in 35 – 21 FCS Quarterfinal Round Game
VILLANOVA, PA 12/11/2021 –
The Wildcats run in the FCS Playoffs ended in the quarterfinal round as the South Dakota State Jackrabbits scored thee consecutive times in the second half, and kept the Cats off the board, in a 35 – 21 win at Villanova Stadium. South Dakota State advances to the semifinal round. Nova finishes the season with a 10 – 3 record.
“”They got it done in the second half,” said Villanova Coach Mark Ferrante. “We gave them a run, but didn’t make the plays to get off the field we needed to. We didn’t get the ball in the endzone in the second half. When you play a team of that caliber, playing anybody at this point of the season, they’re going to be good. They have a really good team, real good program over there. I’m super proud of this team.”
Villanova took at 21 – 14 lead into the locker room scoring with 44 seconds left until intermission when quarterback Daniel Smith hit wide receiver Jaaron Hayek with a 55-yard scoring strike. It looked like Nova had the momentum, but the Jackrabbits took that away at the beginning of the third quarter.
On their first possession of the third quarter Villanova was forced to punt. South Dakota State took over at their 29-yard line, and drove 71-yards in 9-plays to tie the game on a2-yard run by Isaiah Davis. The drive got off on a positive when quarterback Chris Oladokun found wide receiver Jason Janke for 39-yards to the Villanova 37-yard line. The Jackrabbits scored seven plays later.
Villanova ended their second possession with a short punt setting up South Dakota State 49-yards away from the goal line. With the Wildcats a little short in the defensive secondary due to injuries, the Jackrabbits went to the air and got a 38-yard touchdown pass from Oladokun to Jason Janke with 2:17 in the third quarter to grab the lead.
In the fourth quarter Nova tried to fight back, but turned the ball over on downs. South Dakota State took over at their 33-yard line. Davis got the drive started running for 32-yards. He ended that drive scoring from 2-yards out for the final score of the game.
Villanova is a good running team, but were outrushed 266 to 107. South Dakota State was minus the FCS leading rusher Pierre Strong, Jr. due to injury for most of the game. He may be the number one back, but Davis is number 1A. He ran for 174 yards and 3 touchdowns. Smith led the Cats with 44 yards on the ground and scored once.
“We’re a pretty good running team,” said Jackrabbits Coach John Stiegelmeier. “We have three good running backs. It was the matchup, our offensive line against their defensive line and linebackers. We had a good scheme.”
South Dakota State decided to take away the run in the first part of the game. Villanova went to the air with Smith finding wide receiver Rayjoun Pringle 5 times for 119 yards, most in the first half. In the second half the Jackrabbits stacked the defensive backfield.
“In the first half they came out and loaded the box a little bit and dared us to throw the ball,” Smith said. “Once we showed we could they started to back off a little and made it tough for us in the passing game.”
“They were backing people off. They were mixing up some of the looks they were giving. Their d-line is really good. Hats off to them. They made it hard on is.”
Smith threw for 271 yards and two scoring tosses.
On defense linebacker Forrest Rhyne made a game-best 21 tackles. He has 154 for the season leading the FCS in that category.
“I’m just trying to play into our defensive scheme,” said Rhyne. “I’m not trying to do anything outside. My job is as the middle linebacker is to run from sideline to sideline, and I try to do that for the defense, for Villanova, for my defensive coordinator, and everybody standing next to me.”
South Dakota State moves on to the semifinal round. They are the only unseeded team left in the playoffs.
The cruelty of the FCS Playoffs is that only one team celebrates the end of the season. Villanova’s season comes to an end. This group was made up of many fifth and six year players. The end this season was emotional for Coach Ferrante and the players that have been together for a long time.
“There were a lot of tears in the locker room, and it wasn’t just the players,” Ferrante said. “I talked about how special of lot of there people are, you know, these guys. You see a lot of other schools and look at what’s happening. Guys are getting their degree from their school and jumping in the portal. We have six year guys who stuck through us and COVID and came back and stayed with this program. I think that speaks volumes about this university and this program.”
“We’re excited we have the number five seed and got a second home game. Obviously, we’d like to play next week. Things are going to hurt a little bit, tomorrow as well. Down the road people will pat these guys on the back and then they’ll start knowing what they did and what they accomplished this year without anybody expecting them to do that.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian