Brookings, SD – In a game featuring one of the FCS' top running backs and one of the better passing attacks, the run game was better suited in South Dakota State's 58-10 FCS playoff win over Eastern Illinois Saturday.
Running back Zach Zenner accounted for a school-record 295 yards and three touchdowns, and South Dakota State had 434 on the ground. The Jackrabbits jumped out to a comfortable 34-3 halftime lead before literally running away to the first-round win.
It was the first FCS playoff win in three appearances for the Jackrabbits (9-3), who will play in an intriguing second-round matchup on Dec. 1 against fellow Missouri Valley Conference member North Dakota State (10-1), the No. 1 seed and the defending FCS champion.
SDSU already played at North Dakota State on Nov. 10, losing, 20-17.
The Jackrabbits totaled 580 yards of offense and 29 first downs. Quarterback Austin Sumner completed 13-of-28 passes for 146 yards and one touchdown. Reggie Gandy also rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns.
Zenner broke the game open with a 68-yard touchdown run to put the Jackrabbits up 7-0 with 4:27 left in the first quarter. They scored 24 second-quarter points.
Zenner, the FCS rushing leader, raised his season total to 1,998 yards.
Eastern Illinois came into the game ranked No. 6 in the FCS in passing offense (354 yards per game) and total offense (480 yards per game), but was held to just 221 and 366 yards, respectively. They also had been averaging nearly 39 points per game.
EIU quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo completed 25-of-41 for 221 yards and one interception, and receiver Erik Lora caught 12 passes for 133 yards. Lora finished his junior campaign with an FCS single-season record for receptions with 136. He totaled 1,664 receiving yards.
Jake Walker rushed for 125 yards and the Panthers' only touchdown in the loss.
The Panthers, the Ohio Valley Conference champion, finished the season with a 7-5 record. OVC teams have lost 18 straight playoff games dating to 2000.
South Dakota State is ranked 19th in The Sports Network FCS Top 25, while Eastern Illinois is 25th.