FRISCO, TEXAS — The near-dynastic success of the South Dakota State football program can trace back to when current head coach Jimmy Rogers was a player for the Jackrabbits almost 20 years ago, and, in his first season as head coach at his alma mater, he and his squad pulled off another crowning achievement and, once again, in dominant fashion.
Quarterback Mark Gronowski threw for a touchdown pass and ran for another score as top-ranked South Dakota State repeated as Football Championship Subdivision national champions after smothering No. 2 Montana 23-3 inside Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. Isaiah Davis, who came into today after rushing for over 100 yards in each of the three playoff games to get to Frisco, ran for 87 yards and the game’s first touchdown in the first quarter.
South Dakota State has now 29 consecutive games, finishing this season a perfect 15-0.
Like many others on the roster, Gronowski won his second FCS championship and did so after he and the Jackrabbits were defeated on this stage during the COVID year of 2020, when it was defeated by Sam Houston State. In the three years since, the Jackrabbits have gone 40-5, made the FCS national semifinals in each season and, after the last two, have lifted the national championship trophy.
“That first one was … really, really sweet, just because it was that first one,” said Gronowski, who started his third Football Championship Subdivision title game and was named the game’s most outstanding player for the second consecutive year. “We got to see the other team do it three years ago and be up on that stage where we weren’t, so I think that’s part of the thing that makes this whole thing so much sweeter.”
Rogers was also part of last year’s national championship as the team’s defensive coordinator, but moved one seat up after John Stiegelmeier retired as head coach after last year’s triumph. Rogers coordinated the Jackrabbits defense that ranked in the top three in the FCS in total defense, scoring defense and rushing defense, and this year’s unit proved to be just as dominant. In four playoff games, South Dakota State allowed 15 points combined and recorded two shutouts.
“Best defense in FCS history,” Rogers said. “I’m proud of that, proud of this football team, proud to go back-to-back.”
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Sunday afternoon’s game, with all photos taken by Dallas-area photographer Ross James. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 35 pictures in total.