BROOKINGS – If you’re wondering who might replace South Dakota State receiving greats Dallas Goedert and Jake Wieneke this year in the Jackrabbit lineup, you might want to take a look at Cade Johnson.
Johnson, a sophomore receiver from Papillion, Neb., set a single-game Jackrabbits record with four touchdown receptions as South Dakota State throttled Montana State 45-14 Saturday night before an announced crowd of 14,614 at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.
The win for the No. 3-ranked Jackrabbits was their first of the season after a game last week at Iowa State was canceled by weather. It also was the first peek fans got at a new-look offense that is without Goedert and Wieneke, whose pass-catching heroics in the past few seasons earned them both chances to make NFL rosters this summer.
If the first game is any indication, South Dakota State’s offense should be just fine this season. The Jacks exploded for 512 total yards against the Bobcats as senior quarterback Taryn Christion threw for 319 yards and four touchdowns on 21 completions.
Besides his touchdown catches, Johnson notched nine receptions for 138 yards, then deflected attention to Christion in the postgame interviews.
“We got the best quarterback in the nation in my opinion,” Johnson said.
It took much of the first quarter for either team to get going, but once they did, the Jackrabbits were dominant. South Dakota State took a 7-0 lead with 2 minutes, 30 seconds left in the quarter when Christion found Johnson on a 2-yard pass.
The Jacks then blew the game open with two touchdowns and a field goal in the second quarter to take a 24-0 halftime lead.
Not to be outdone, the Jackrabbit defense was every bit as effective as their offensive teammates. SDSU forced four straight three-and-outs to start the game and the Bobcats of the Big Sky Conference managed just one first down the entire half.
Statistic-wise, the Jacks never let the Bobcats into the game. Consider these stats:
- SDSU had 17 more first downs than Montana State.
- The Jacks outgained Montana State by 319 yards.
- Montana State had five more punts than South Dakota State.
- South Dakota State held the ball for 15 more minutes.
- South Dakota State had 164 more rushing yards than Montana State.
Christion’s 1-yard scoring run with 8:36 left in the third quarter put the Jackrabbits up 31-0, but a brief Montana State awakening got the attention of the crowd for a short time. The Bobcats scored two second-half touchdowns, but the outcome was never in doubt.
“When the offense finally got some things going, we were unable to capitalize on the other end,” said Montana State coach Jeff Choate, whose team fell to 1-1 on the season.
SDSU’s Christion topped the 10,000-yard mark for total offense in his career, becoming the first Jackrabbit and only the second Missouri Valley Football Conference player to reach the milestone.
Also for the Jacks, wide receiver Adam Anderson had 86 receiving yards on four catches. Running back Mikey Daniel had 44 yards on four catches.
On the ground, freshman C.J. Wilson had a team-high 62 rushing yards on 12 attempts. Redshirt freshman Pierre Strong Jr. contributed 40 yards two carries.
“They are both really nice players for young guys,” Jackrabbit coach John Stiegelmeier said after the game.
Montana State did not start Troy Anderson at quarterback as expected. Instead of playing as the signal-caller he was featured in a linebacking and running back role.
Instead, it was Tucker Rovig who got the start at quarterback. He struggled to find a groove early on in the offense and ended the night with 164 passing yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
SDSU defensive backs Jordan Brown and Joshua Manchigiah each recorded interceptions.
The change in quarterbacks messed with the game plan for the Jacks, but the defense was able to respond.
“We were anticipating wildcat, but I’m not sure what we got,” Stiegelmeier said.
Whatever it was, Montana State never got its running game going – on 23 attempts, the Bobcats had 29 yards. Montana State did get some of their receivers going in the second half, with Kevin Kassis recording 74 receiving yards on three catches.
South Dakota State will host the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff at 5 p.m., (MT) Saturday in Brookings