How to watch and what to know about Holy Cross at South Dakota State football

BROOKINGS, SD - APRIL 24: South Dakota State Jackrabbits running back Isaiah Davis #22 breaks loose for a big gain against the Holy Cross Crusaders at Dana J Dykhouse Stadium on April 24, 2021 in Brookings, South Dakota. (Photo by Dave Eggen/Inertia)
BROOKINGS, SD - APRIL 24: South Dakota State Jackrabbits running back Isaiah Davis #22 breaks loose for a big gain against the Holy Cross Crusaders at Dana J Dykhouse Stadium on April 24, 2021 in Brookings, South Dakota. (Photo by Dave Eggen/Inertia)

South Dakota State’s playoff run continues Saturday in a nationally-televised quarterfinal battle with Holy Cross. Kick-off is set for 11 a.m. in Brookings, and the game will air on ESPN. It’s the only one of the FCS playoff’s four quarterfinal games scheduled for Saturday, as the other three will kick off Friday night.

The Jackrabbits returned from a long layoff in the second round to crush Delaware 42-6 in their first game after having consecutive bye weeks. The time off certainly seemed to benefit the Jacks, as they were sharp, fresh and on task in taking apart the Blue Hens in all three phases.

But the Crusaders are no slouch. Though they play in the Patriot League, which has traditionally been one of the FCS’s weaker conferences, they’ve put together a legit contender this season. Holy Cross is 12-0, which includes a win over Bowl-bound Buffalo of the FBS, Ivy League champion Yale, playoff-qualifier Fordham, and last week’s second round win over New Hampshire, the first FCS playoff win the Crusaders have earned under Chesney.

The 12 wins are a single-season program record, and they’ve reached the FCS quarterfinals for the first time since 1983.

Holy Cross earned the No. 8 seed in this year’s field and accompanying first round bye, which makes them a more formidable challenge for SDSU than the last time they visited Brookings. That was in the pandemic-altered 2020/21 spring season. Holy Cross played just three regular season games in the spring but won them all and were given an automatic qualifier to that spring’s 16-team playoff field. They were sent to Brookings in the first round where they lost 31-3 to SDSU.

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Matthew Sluka was the Crusader quarterback then, while Peter Oliver was their top running back and Spence Gilliam and Jalen Coker their top receivers. That quartet is still together, while some of their top defenders from that team are also returning.

Sluka is the engine that drives an offense that averages 39 points per game, having rushed for 1,021 yards and 10 touchdowns while throwing for 2,364 yards and 26 touchdowns while throwing only three interceptions. Oliver has 956 yards rushing while Jordan Fuller has rushed for 536 yards and 13 touchdowns – the Crusaders average 243 rushing yards per game. Coker is a dangerous deep threat, with 45 catches for 849 yards and 11 scores.

The Crusader defense has had some tough days, and will have their hands full with the Jackrabbit offense. Liam Anderson is their top tackler, with 76 stops, while Walter Reynolds has 59 tackles and five interceptions while Jake Reichwin has 48 tackles and 6.5 sacks.

A young South Dakota State football fan bundles up for the cold while holding a sign for running back Isaiah Davis in an FCS playoff game against Delaware on December 3, 2022, at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings.
A young South Dakota State football fan bundles up for the cold while holding a sign for running back Isaiah Davis in an FCS playoff game against Delaware on December 3, 2022, at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings.

On special teams, Devin Haskins has returned three punts on the season, and taken two of them back for touchdowns, while kicker Derek Ng has been hot and cold, going 13-of-20 on field goals and missing six PATs. Punter Patrick Haughney has averaged 41.0 yards per kick, while dropping more than half of those inside the 20.

The Jacks relied heavily on the ground game when they beat the Crusaders last time, with Isaiah Davis rushing for 159 yards on just 10 carries. Davis is coming off a productive game against Delaware, rushing for 104 yards and two touchdowns. He went over 1,000 yards for the season in the game.

Mark Gronowski threw three touchdown passes in the last meeting against Holy Cross. He’s thrown 19 of them this season, while also rushing for nine scores. He ran for a season-high 73 yards last week.

HOLY CROSS (12-0) AT SOUTH DAKOTA STATE (11-1)

WHEN/WHERE: 11 a.m. Saturday at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium

TV: ESPN

RADIO: WNAX-AM 570; Jackrabbit radio affiliates

STREAMING: ESPN+

WEATHER FORECAST: 35 degrees and clear

TICKETS: JackrabbitTickets.com

COACHES: CHC – Bob Chesney (5th year, 37-16); SDSU – John Stiegelmeier (26th year, 196-112)

SERIES: SDSU leads 1-0

LAST TIME: SDSU beat Holy Cross 31-3 in the 2021 spring season playoffs

LAST WEEK: Holy Cross beat New Hampshire 35-19; SDSU beat Delaware 42-6

RANKINGS: SDSU is ranked No.1 in the FCS; Holy Cross is the No. 8 seed and was ranked 7th in the last FCS Top 25 poll

This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: How to watch Holy Cross at South Dakota State football