South Dakota State’s Andy Mink (right) tries to arm tackle Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez in the first half of the Jackrabbits’ 17-3 loss to the Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on Saturday in Lincoln, Neb. Helping out on the play is Ross Basham (98).
Photo by Eric Landwehr - University Relations
LINCOLN, Neb. — South Dakota State went toe-to-toe with sixth-ranked Nebraska on Saturday, and even outplayed the FBS opponent for portions of the game. But, in the end, it came down to the Cornhuskers getting the big plays and the good breaks when they needed them during a 17-3 homecoming win over the Jackrabbits in front of the 10th-largest crowd in Memorial Stadium history of 85,573.
"I am tremendously proud of our football program, but however you measure it, there is a degree a bit higher than that of disappointment,” said SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier. “Two teams play, one finishes first and the other one finishes last.
“In addition, I am tremendously proud of their attitude that they don't settle for playing close, moral victories. Wherever they go, they go try to win a football game. I'm very proud of them."
SDSU running back Kyle Minett tallied his 16th career 100-yard game with 112 yards on 28 carries, moving him into third on the school’s all-time list with 3,333 career yards.
“I’ve never, in my career, gone into a game not thinking we had an opportunity to win; and I approached this game the same way,” Minett said. “I was pleased that we were moving the ball and playing up to our potential. But we just didn’t catch any breaks, and that happens. You can always look back at the what-ifs, but the fact of the matter is that we lost.”
The Jackrabbits, who are off to an 0-3 start, had a pair of touchdowns overturned by penalties – Minett’s 2-yard run in the first quarter and Derek Domino’s 66-yard interception return in the fourth.
SDSU controlled the first quarter, running 20 plays to Nebraska’s eight, while holding the ball for more than 10 minutes. And, the SDSU defense kept Nebraska off the scoreboard in the opening 15 minutes for the first time this season.
But, SDSU couldn’t score either.
The Jacks picked up two first downs on their opening drive before punting. Anthony Wise then forced quarterback Taylor Martinez to fumble on Nebraska’s first play of the game, and Jackrabbit Winston Wright fell on the ball at the Nebraska 24-yard-line.
The Jackrabbits grinded downfield, setting up first-and-goal at the 2, before Minett ran in for a score; however, the play was called back by an illegal shift penalty.
On second-and-goal from the 3, Minett almost got in again, getting the ball inside the 1. The play was reviewed to see whether or not the ball broke the plane, but the ruling on the field held up.
On third down, it appeared Minett may have gotten in again, but he was ruled down about 6 inches from the goal line. Interestingly, no replay was requested following that run. Finally, on fourth down, Nebraska got to Minett in the backfield in the ‘Flash’ formation, forcing a turnover on downs after a loss of 1.
Both teams punted on their next possession – Dean Priddy got off a booming kick to the Nebraska 4, avoiding disaster for SDSU after the snap sailed 15 yards over his head – before Nebraska got going.
The Cornhuskers rattled off a pair of touchdowns in a 3-minute, 45-second stretch in the second quarter.
On the first play of the second quarter, Martinez found Mike McNeill for a 64-yard gain, setting up Rex Burkhead’s 3-yard TD run with 14:31 left in the quarter.
Nebraska then forced a three-and-out, taking over at its own 46. A pass interference penalty moved the ball into SDSU territory, and following a pair of 2-yard runs, Martinez found a wide open Kyler Reed up the right sideline for a 33-yard TD that made it 14-0 at the 12:59-mark.
Late in the half, SDSU’s Dirk Kool came up with an interception, returning it 7 yards to the SDSU 47 with 1:38 to go. But, three consecutive Thomas O’Brien incompletions forced the Jacks to punt.
South Dakota State got on the board with 5:11 to go in the third following its longest drive of the day. Kyle Harris capped the 12-play, 73-yard drive with a 35-yard field goal that made it 14-3.
Nebraska answered that score with a field goal of its own on the third play of the fourth quarter – a 30-yarder from Alex Henery.
On the Cornhuskers’ next possession, Domino picked off a Martinez pass and made a brilliant return, maneuvering through Nebraska tacklers, switching sides of the field and scampering in for a 66-yard touchdown. But, again, the play was called back by a penalty for an illegal block, moving the ball to the SDSU 33 with 11:09 remaining.
“Andy Mink – I thought he stumbled, and then one of their tackles tripped over him,” Stiegelmeier said of the illegal block penalty. “I don’t even know if he was trying to block, because the play was behind him.
“The biggest disappointment with that, is the kid that (drew) the penalty would have never caught Derek Domino. Whether Andy tried to block him or not, he would have never made the play. But, that’s football, and I’m sure if I look at their film or look at it from their standpoint, there are some plays they think should have been different.”
Following the penalty, O’Brien found Tyrel Kool for a 33-yard gain, and Minett moved the Jacks down to the 34-yard-line with a 5-yard run. But, on the next play, O’Brien’s pass over the middle was thrown late, allowing Alfonzo Dennard to catch up and come up with an interception at the 1 with 11:09 to play.
The game was not over at that point, but the Jacks managed just 12 yards on eight plays the rest of the way, resulting in a turnover on downs on the Nebraska 37 with 6:03 left and an interception by P.J. Smith at the SDSU 22 with 2:26 to go.
Despite the loss, the Jackrabbits should be able to take several positives out of the game. They did, after all, hold the potent Nebraska offense to 17 points and 345 total yards (205 rushing-140 passing). The Cornhuskers entered the game averaging 47.7 points (fifth in the FBS ranks) and 513.3 yards of offense (eighth), including 344 rushing yards (fourth) per game.
"The defense did a great job,” Stiegelmeier said. “I would credit the guys on the field, but I would really credit our defensive coaches too, with the game plan. That's a tough offense to defend. Go look at the stats. For them to pull their starting quarterback, out of frustration or whatever, is a positive for our guys.
“It's a disappointment for our offense, somewhat. Their speed is great, so one play that might be eight yards is going to be four against these guys. We didn't have a lot of opportunities for big plays
“We knew if we were going to win the football game it wasn't going to be 44-43, it was going to be play your tails off and I think that's what we did. We had an opportunity early and felt that we scored but we didn't."
Redshirt-freshman phenom Martinez entered the game with 813 yards of offense – including 421 rushing – and nine TDs in three games, but was limited to just 75 yards rushing and 140 passing with one TD and three turnovers. He was taken out of the game with 9:46 to go in the fourth quarter.
Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said he didn’t think his Cornhuskers matched the Jackrabbits’ intensity.
“At times I thought we did, but I thought they outplayed us,” he added. “They out-hit us, they flew around with more passion than we did. For us to walk out of our stadium after playing like that, I'm embarrassed.”
For SDSU, O’Brien finished 12-for-28 for 95 yards and two INTs. Domino also had a career-high 16 tackles, including two for a loss.
Among the 85,000-plus in attendance was a solid Jackrabbit contingent. The ‘Blueshirts’ could easily be seen and heard throughout the contest.
“It was a treat. We were honored by the fans and their excitement,” Stiegelmeier added. “They don’t want to hear this, but it’s not a victory. There were so many positive comments (after the game) and there should be, but our guys, you know, they hurt also. So, the pride they have for playing their tails off, there is also a hurt there … but my high-five goes to those people. They made some noise. It was good.”
South Dakota State plays at Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa, on Saturday at 4:05 p.m.
SDSU 0 0 3 0 – 3
Nebraska 0 14 0 3 – 17
N – Rex Burkhead 3 run (Alex Henery kick), 14:21
N – Kyler Reed 33 pass from Taylor Martinez (Henery kick), 10:46
SDSU – Kyle Harris 35 FG, 4:43
N – Henery 30 FG, 5:09
FIRST DOWNS 10 15
Rushing 6 9
Passing 4 4
Penalty 0 2
TOTAL OFFENSE YARDS 236 345
Total offense plays 65 64
Average gain per play 3.6 5.4
NET YARDS RUSHING 141 205
Rushing attempts 37 48
Average per rush 3.8 4.3
Rushing touchdowns 0 1
Yards gained rushing 143 227
Yards lost rushing 2 22
NET YARDS PASSING 94 140
Comp.-Att.-Int. 12-28-2 6-16-2
Average per attempt 3.4 8.8
Average per completion 7.9 23.3
Passing touchdowns 0 1
Fumbles: Number-Lost 0-0 4-1
Penalties: Number-Yards 7-73 6-47
PUNTS-YARDS 8-317 6-284
Average yards per punt 39.6 47.3
Net Yards per punt 34.2 37.3
Inside 20 2 2
50+ yards 1 2
Touchbacks 2 0
Fair catch 0 0
KICKOFFS-YARDS 2-85 4-276
Average yards per kickoff 42.5 69
Net yards per kickoff 35 48
Touchbacks 0 2
Punt returns: Number-Yards-TD 5-60-0 3-3-0
Average per return 12 1
Kickoff returns: Number-Yards-TD 2-44-0 1-15-0
Average per return 22 15
Interceptions: Number-Yards-TD 2-21-0 2-0-0
Fumble returns: Number-Yards-TD 0-0-0 0-0-0
Miscellaneous yards 0 0
POSSESSION TIME 29:49 30:11
1st quarter 10:44 4:16
2nd quarter 7:32 7:28
3rd quarter 5:58 9:02
4th quarter 5:35 9:25
Third-down conversions 5-of-17 4-of-13
Fourth-down conversions 0-of-3 0-of-0
Red-Zone scores-chances 1-2 2-3
Touchdowns 0-2 1-3
Field goals 1-2 1-3
Sacks by: Number-Yards 0-0 0-0
PAT kicks 0-0 2-2
Field Goals 1-1 1-1
RUSHING: SDSU – Kyle Minett 28-112, Tyler Duffy 8-24, Tyrel Kool 1-5. N – Taylor Martinez 13-75, Rex Burkhead 14-66, Roy Helu Jr. 19-59, Cody Green 2-5.
PASSING: SDSU – Thomas O’Brien 12-28-2-95. N – Taylor Martinez 6-14-2-140, Cody Green 0-2-0-0.
RECEIVING: SDSU – Kyle Minett 5-14, Tyrel Kool 2-34, Colin Cochart 2-24, Brandon Hubert 2-15, Aaron Rollin 1-8. N – Brandon Kinnie 3-34, Mike McNeill 1-64, Kyler Reed 1-33, Rex Burkhead 1-9.