Neuqua Valley grad Gronowski leads South Dakota State past SIU in playoffs

  • Southern Illinois University running back Javon Williams Jr. is brought down short of the goal line in Sunday night's FCS quarterfinal playoff game at South Dakota State, which rallied for a 31-26 victory.

    Southern Illinois University running back Javon Williams Jr. is brought down short of the goal line in Sunday night's FCS quarterfinal playoff game at South Dakota State, which rallied for a 31-26 victory. Courtesy of SIU Athletics

 
Associated Press
Updated 5/4/2021 6:43 AM

BROOKINGS, S.D. -- Mark Gronowski threw two touchdown passes to Jadon Janke and ran 67 yards for the go-ahead score to help South Dakota State rally from a 13-point deficit and beat Southern Illinois 31-26 Sunday night in the FCS playoffs.

Top-seeded South Dakota State (7-1), ranked No. 3 in the STATS FCS poll, will host fifth-ranked Delaware in the semifinals Saturday.

 

Nico Gualdoni made a 33-yard field goal to give Southern Illinois (6-4) a 20-7 lead with 22 seconds left in the second quarter, but the Jackrabbits scored the next 24 points to take the lead for good.

Isaiah Davis returned the ensuing kickoff 50 yards to set up a 34-yard field goal by Cole Frahm as time expired in the first half.

Janke, whose 23-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter opened the scoring, caught a 26-yard TD pass midway through the third to trim SDSU's deficit to 20-17.

The Salukis were stopped at the 1 on a fourth-and-goal play on their ensuing drive before Gronowski, a Neuqua Valley grad, pulled the handoff on a zone-read play and raced down the left sideline to put the Jackrabbits in front early in the fourth. Davis scored on a 4-yard run that made it 31-20 with 7:11 to play.

Landon Lenoir had six receptions for 129 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown, for SIU.

Gronowski finished 9 of 16 for 183 yards and had 142 yards rushing on 13 carries.

SIU's first TD midway through the first quarter was set up by a 33-yard pass from wildcat quarterback Javon Williams Jr. to Lenoir, who stepped out at the SDSU 1. Two plays later, 330-pound left guard ZeVeyon Furcron barreled into the end zone for his first career score to make it 7-7.

"There's no moral victories and there's not one person with dry eyes in that locker room," SIU coach Nick Hill said. "They came up here to win, honestly. It's been our message all week ... those guys believed that they were going to come up here and win."

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