BROOKINGS, S.D. - Western Illinois could not stop the big plays by South Dakota State, losing on the road 31-10 on Saturday night (Oct. 13). The Leathernecks dropped to 3-3 overall and 1-2 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference following the loss to the 20th-ranked Jackrabbits.
Zach Zenner (nation's leading rusher) broke through on two long touchdown runs and their defense returned an interception for a touchdown but of the four big plays, one came right at the start.
Western won the coin flip and elected to defer. Tyrel Kool took Pat Smith's opening kickoff three yards deep and found a seam to the endzone for an early 7-0 lead.
A few minutes later, Smith's punt pinned the Jackrabbits inside their own five. Martinez Davis stepped in front of Austin Sumner's pass at the 28 and raced into the endzone. Smith's extra point tied the game less than five minutes in. It was Davis' team-leading third interception this year and second one he returned for a score.
Zenner made the first of his two big runs when he found a hole through the line to start the second quarter and raced 46 yards for a score and 14-7 lead.
Western went 16 plays to start its drive in the second quarter. Caulton Ray converted on 4th-and-2 at midfield, and the Leathernecks eventually drove to the six before stalling. Smith hit a field goal from 23 yards to make it 14-10, which would be the eventual score at the half.
Facing another 3rd-and-long to start the third quarter, Skyler Luxa picked off Wil Lunt and raced it 23 yards for a score and 21-10 lead. The Jacks (5-1, 3-0) were driving in the third, taking over with a short field at Western's 36. On second down from the 11, Sumner went for the endzone but David McDaniel made a one-handed interception grab to stop the scoring threat. It was the sophomore's second interception this year.
Justin Syrovatka made a 29-yard field goal to start the fourth quarter, making it 24-10. Zenner broke through the line again in the fourth, a 60-yard run to make it 31-10 with just over nine minutes remaining which proved to be the final score.
Charles Chestnut turned in a career-nigh receiving, game-highs and career-highs of nine receptions totaling 123 yards. It was the first 100-yard receiving game of his career.
Lunt finished 20-of-38 passing in his second start of the year, totaling 204 yards. He was two yards off his career-high total.
J.J. Raffelson made nine tackles as did Kieron James, tying a career-high for the senior cornerback. Theon Dixon and Devon Butler added eight stops each. Western's defense had only two sacks coming into the game, and responded with 4.5 on the night.
Zenner finished with 172 yards and two scores on 19 carries. Sumner went 13-of-24 for 136 yards and two picks. Ross Shafrath led the defense with 12 stops.
The Leathernecks return to Hanson Field next Saturday (Oct. 20) to play host to Indiana State. Kickoff for the Dads' Weekend game is scheduled for 6 p.m.
GAME NOTES: Davis' second interception return for a touchdown gives him 12 points this year, tying him for third place on season 'Top 10' for scoring and fourth place on the Western career 'Top 10'... Kevin Kintzel recorded his first career sack midway through the first quarter, which forced a SDSU punt... Smith's second quarter field goal was his ninth this year, surpassing his two-year career total, and surpassed 100 career points... Early in the fourth Western was stopped on 4th-and-short, just the second time this year missing on fourth down conversions... Five different Leathernecks recorded a sack, totaling 6.0 tackles for loss overall... The game's attendance was 10,727.