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South Dakota State's pursuit of perfection during the 2023 season hit another gear Friday night as the Jackrabbits put together a near-flawless performance in a 59-0 shutout of UAlbany in the semifinals of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.

The top-seeded Jackrabbits scored in all three phases of the game improving to 14-0 overall and running their winning streak to 28 games dating back to the 2022 campaign. UAlbany, which was seeded fifth, ended its season with an 11-4 overall record.

SDSU was sharp from the opening kickoff as it strung together an 11-play, 77-yard drive that culminated with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Walter Payton Award finalist Mark Gronowski to Zach Heins seven minutes into the contest.

UAlbany moved into Jackrabbit territory on its initial possession, but safety Tucker Large came up with the first of three first-half interceptions thrown by Great Dane quarterback Reese Poffenbarger at the SDSU 30.

Gronowski, meanwhile, completed his first seven pass attempts of the night, including a 40-yard strike deep over the middle to Jadon Janke to give the Jackrabbits the ball at the UAlbany 12-yard line two plays after the interception to set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Isaiah Davis for a 14-0 Jackrabbit lead.

SDSU was only getting started.

Davis scored on a 2-yard run four minutes into the second quarter and Large loomed large on special teams moments later as he fielded a rolling punt at his own 21, made the first man miss, and weaved his way through UAlbany defenders with help from a Jackrabbit caravan on his way to a 79-yard touchdown. Davis' second touchdown of the game was set up by a 32-yard run by Gronowski — his longest of the season.

DyShawn Gales and Dalys Beanum each picked off Poffenbarger passes in the second quarter, and the Jackrabbits cashed in after Beanum's interception at the SDSU 37 to build a 35-0 lead going into the break. Gronowski continued his efficient passing by going 4-for-4 for 69 yards on the drive, the last 36 yards coming on a touchdown pass to Jadon Janke in the right corner of the end zone with 34 seconds remaining in the first half.

The Jackrabbit defense forced its fourth takeaway of the game two plays into the third quarter as Isaiah Stalbird jarred the ball loose from the UAlbany ball carrier and Jason Freeman picked up the loose ball at the Great Danes' 34-yard line and ran it back to push the SDSU lead to 42-0.

SDSU preserved its second shutout of the postseason and third in 2023 by turning UAlbany over on downs three times in the second half, including twice in the red zone in the third quarter.

Gronowski and Heins hooked up again early in the fourth quarter on a 25-yard touchdown pass on what was the final drive of the game for the majority of the Jackrabbit starters.

Backup quarterback Chase Mason tossed his first career touchdown pass later in the final stanza as freshman wide receiver Griffin Wilde caught a pass behind the line of scrimmage and slipped through a tackle before outracing the defense for a 71-yard catch and run.

Hunter Dustman added a 27-yard field goal late for the final tally as the Jackrabbits set a program record for most points in a postseason game with 59.

SDSU finished with a 556-298 advantage in total offense, including a 220-66 margin in rushing. Gronowski ended the night 15-of-19 passing for 265 yards and three scores. He also ran five times for 50 yards. Davis led the ground game with 107 yards on 15 carries.

Jadon Janke paced the receiving corps with 151 yards on six catches, with Heins ending the night with four receptions for 50 yards.

For UAlbany, Poffenbarger was 30-for-44 passes for 232 yards, spreading his completions among nine different receivers. Julian Hicks was the primary target with seven catches for 76 yards.

Poffenbarger also led the Great Danes in rushing with 29 carries on nine attempts.

Besides his fumble return for a touchdown, Freeman tallied a team-high nine tackles and broke up a pass. Fellow linebackers Stalbird and Adam Bock each registered seven stops. In all, 28 different Jackrabbit players recorded at least one tackle in the contest.

Denzel Patrick led all players with 12 tackles for UAlbany.

The Jackrabbits will make a return trip to Frisco, Texas, for the FCS national title game on January 7 against either Montana or North Dakota State. Kickoff for the title tilt is slated for 1:00 PM and will be televised on ABC.

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