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South Dakota State wins FCS championship with rout of North Dakota State

Mason McCormick, John Stiegelmeier, Mark Gronowski
Posted at 3:49 PM, Jan 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-09 14:13:16-05

FRISCO, Texas — Quarterback Mark Gronowski accounted for four touchdowns and running backs Isaiah Davis and Amar Johnson each rushed for more than 100 yards and a TD as South Dakota State won the NCAA Division I Football Championship with a 45-21 victory over Missouri Valley Football Conference rival North Dakota State on Sunday at Toyota Stadium.

The top-seeded Jackrabbits finished the season with a 14-1 record and became the first team to defeat NDSU in an FCS title game. The Bison had won all nine of their previous appearances since 2011. The third-seeded Bison finished the year with a 12-3 record.

It marks the first national title for South Dakota State and longtime coach John Stiegelmeier. The Jackrabbits defeated Montana State 38-18 in a semifinal game on Dec. 17 in Brookings, S.D., to advance to the championship. North Dakota State defeated Montana 49-26 in a second-round game on Dec. 3 in Fargo, N.D.

Gronowski threw touchdowns to Jaxon Janke and Michael Morgan in the second quarter as the Jackrabbits took a 28-7 lead. Gronowski ran for a 51-yard score early in the third as SDSU built a 38-14 advantage. His final TD was a 30-yard passing play to Janke again, which made the score 45-21 with 8:05 remaining.

Davis scored on a 16-yard run in the first quarter and Johnson had a 32-yard scoring run in the second.

Johnson had 126 yards on just nine carries. Davis finished with 119 yards on 23 attempts. Gronowski completed 14 of 21 passes for 223 yards without an interception. He also rushed for 57 yards. SDSU finished with 299 team rushing yards while averaging 7.7 yards per carry.

Defensively, the Jackrabbits forced three turnovers, including two interceptions of NDSU quarterback Cam Miller. Miller had 260 passing yards and two touchdowns, but the vaunted Bison rushing attack was held to 160 yards on 37 carries. NDSU's Zach Mathis led all receivers with seven receptions for 123 yards.

This season marked the first time the FCS championship was played on a Sunday. It was also South Dakota State's second victory over North Dakota State this season.