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South Dakota State Eliminated from FCS Playoffs with Loss at Eastern Washington


South Dakota State played the #3 seed in the FCS Playoffs to a first half draw Saturday, only to fall victim to a second half offensive explosion, as the Jacks were eliminated by Eastern Washington 41-17 in Cheney.

The Eagles (11-2) outscored SDSU 27-3 in the final 30 minutes to advance to the quarterfinals for the second straight year.

Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year, quarterback Vernon Adams, threw for 217 yards and five touchdowns, giving him 51 on the year.

The Jacks struck first, taking the opening kickoff and marching 75-yards down the field, with Austin Sumner hitting Reggie Gandy on a 14-yard scoring strike to give SDSU its only lead of the day at 7-0.

The South Dakota State defense did its best to slow down one of the most productive offenses in the national, forcing EWU to punt on its first two possessions.

But the Eagles showed off their quick strike abilities the third time they touched the ball, turning a short field into a 2-play, 26 second, 51-yard scoring drive, with Adams finding Zack Gehring for a 22-yard touchdown and a 7-7 game.

Eastern Washington’s next possession lasted just 52 seconds and covered 70-yards in three plays, the last an Adams to Cooper Kupp 40 yard pass to give the Eagles a 14-7 lead.

Both EWU scoring drives were aided by SDSU 15-yard penalties (personal foul, pass interference).

The Jacks did bounce back to tie the game with 1:40 to play before halftime, as Sumner went 4-for-5 and running back Zach Zenner picked up 20 of his 71-yards, the final one yard tying the game at 14.

The second half started poorly for the Jacks and went downhill in a hurry, as SDSU was called for a delay of game penalty on the opening kickoff of the third quarter.

On Eastern Washington’s second possession of the half, running back Quincy Forte busted loose on the first play for 49-yards and the Eagles were in SDSU territory.  Adams led them to the end zone moments later on a 3-yard touchdown pass to Zach Wimberly to make it 21-14.

The next Jackrabbit drive helped EWU put the game out of reach as Ethan Sawyer attempted a fake punt on 4th and 2 from the SDSU 43, only to be dropped for a nine yard loss by Anthony Larry, giving the Eagles the ball, and all of the momentum, at the Jacks 34.

It took Adams just four plays to capitalize, hitting Kupp for a 15-yard score and a 27-14 lead

South Dakota State got its only second half points on the next possession when Justin Syrovatka capped a 13-play, 63-yard drive with a 27-yard field to cut the EWU advantage to 27-17.

But as the fourth quarter began, EWU struck quickly again, 3 plays, 70 yards, 43 seconds, with Adams connecting with Cory Mitchell for a 69-yard touchdown.

The Eagles added a late touchdown on a 20-yard run by Forte, finishing the game with 504 yards of total offense, compared to 403 by SDSU.

Adams completed 12-of-22 passes for 217 yards, while Forte rushed 21 times for 202 yards.

For SDSU (9-5), Sumner ended the afternoon 26-of-40 passing for 315 yards. Senior wide receiver Trevor Tiefenthaler recorded career highs of 11 catches for 139 yards, while Jason Schneider added six receptions for 81 yards in setting the Jackrabbit single-season record with 78 receptions.

Zenner crossed the 2,000-yard mark for the second consecutive season, finishing the year with 2,015 after tallying 71 yards on 21 carries.

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