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Top Jackrabbits: Who to watch for South Dakota State in FCS national championship

Mark Gronowski
Posted at 3:57 PM, Jan 06, 2024

FRISCO, Texas — When South Dakota State takes the field against Montana in the FCS national championship game Sunday, the Jackrabbits will do so with an astounding 20 All-Missouri Valley Football Conference players.

Nine guys earned first-team all-conference honors, including quarterback Mark Gronowski and running back Isaiah Davis, who shared the league's offensive player of the year award.

Gronowski was named the subdivision's offensive player of the year by the FCS Athletic Directors Association on Wednesday and is as steady as they come. The junior All-America quarterback has passed for 2,883 and 28 touchdowns — and just four interceptions — this season, while adding another 349 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. He's quarterbacked the Jacks to 28 consecutive wins, including last year's FCS championship win over North Dakota State in which he passed for three touchdowns and ran for another.

Davis, a senior running back, has been equally as impressive this season, totaling an FCS-best 1,491 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground on 220 carries, good for a 6.8 yards-per-carry average. He's eclipsed the 100-yard mark in eight games this season, including all three of SDSU's playoff matchups: 117 yards and three TDs against Mercer, 192 yards and a score against Villanova and 107 yards and two touchdowns versus Albany.

South Dakota State also placed three defensive players on the MVFC first team, headlined by leading tackler Jason Freeman and do-it-all safety Tucker Large. Large, a sophomore, also earned second-team all-conference recognition as a return specialist.

Defensively, Large is tied for the team lead with four interceptions and seven pass breakups. He's also been in on 43 tackles. Large can also swing momentum in the return game, where he has 396 punt return yards and one touchdown this season. His 18.9 yards per punt return rank third in the FCS.

South Dakota State and Montana kick off in the FCS national championship game at noon Mountain time Sunday at Toyota Stadium.