South Dakota State rolls over North Dakota State to claim first national title in program history

The Jackrabbits took down the Bison 45-21. SDSU finished its season 14-1 and claimed its first Division I national championship in program history.

South Dakota State wide receiver Jaxon Janke hauls in a touchdown during the FCS championship against North Dakota State on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, in Frisco, Texas.
Landon Dierks / Mitchell Republic

FRISCO, Texas — Mark Gronowski threw three touchdowns and rushed for one to lead South Dakota State University past North Dakota State University to win the Football Championship Subdivision national championship.

The Jackrabbits took down the Bison 45-21 on Sunday afternoon at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. SDSU finished its season 14-1 and claimed its first Division I national championship in program history.

On top of his four total touchdowns, Gronowski threw for 223 yards and ran for 57. Outside of the Jacks’ signal caller, Amar Johnson tacked on 126 rushing yards and a score on nine totes, and Isaiah Davis contributed another 119 yards on the ground and a score on 23 rushes.

All told, the Jackrabbits ran for 299 yards and surrendered just 160 to the Bison. Through the air, Jaxon Janke caught a pair of touchdowns, totalling three catches for 60 yards. His twin, Jadon Janke, had five receptions for 61 yards.

The Jacks opened the scoring on a 16-yard touchdown run from Davis in the first quarter before the Bison responded on a Joe Stoffel 27-yard touchdown catch to tie things up. SDSU scored the next 21 points and took a 31-14 lead to the half.


A pair of second-half interceptions helped SDSU outscore NDSU 14-7 in the final two quarters, sealing the win for the Jacks.

"Some guys rose up and did more than we ever asked them to do," SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said during an interview with ESPN after the win.

The loss is the first time NDSU (12-3) has lost in the national title game.

"My dad taught me on the farm: 'Work hard and be a good person.' That’s what I tried to do," Stiegelmeier added during his ESPN interview. "He said, 'You’ll have success.' And we’ve had success."

The 45 points were the most in an FCS championship game played in Frisco (the site since 2010), the most overall since now-FBS Appalachian State put up 49 in 2007 and sixth-most in the 44-year history of the subdivision.

Perhaps more impressively, SDSU became the first program to topple the Bison in Frisco, with NDSU having gone 9-0 in the title game since 2011. The win was the Jacks’ fourth-straight in the Dakota Marker rivalry series but the first victory all-time in the postseason against their northern rivals (all four prior playoff games took place in Fargo).

“It's fun to have this feeling against them.” Stiegelmeier said. “... It's a great competition, rivalry, and I continue to think back to 2004 and wondering how it was going to work out. Well, this is pretty sweet how it's worked out.”

After the teams played to a 7-7 first-quarter draw — SDSU opened the scoring with a 16-yard rush by Isaiah Davis and NDSU responded almost immediately with a 27-yard pass from Cam Miller to tight end Joe Stoffel — the tide began to sway heavily in favor of the top-ranked Jacks.


Amar Johnson broke loose for a 32-yard touchdown run to restore a seven-point edge early in the second quarter and NDSU’s Kobe Johnson had the ball punched loose on the first play of the ensuing drive. Less than two minutes of game time later, SDSU was back in the endzone with an 18-yard pass from Mark Gronowski to Jaxon Janke.

Later in the quarter, the Jackrabbits added to the lead on a crafty third-and-1 call that had Gronowski fake a quarterback run up the middle before pulling up and lofting a pass to a wide open Mike Morgan, who trotted into the endzone for a 44-yard touchdown and a 28-7 lead.

While the Bison got back within 14 points on their own 44-yard pass from Miller to Eli Green, it was short-lived. Set up by a 55-yard rush by Amar Johnson, the Jacks went back up by three scores as Hunter Dustman knocked through a 30-yard field goal to make it 31-14 as time expired in the first half.

Gronowski got involved on the ground to start the second half, taking off for a 51-yard score that pushed the advantage to 38-14. It was the only score by either side in the third quarter, all but sealing the Bison’s fate.

Kobe Johnson scored on a 9-yard rush less than 90 seconds into the fourth quarter. But again SDSU had a response, as Gronowski connected with Janke again, this time from 30 yards out, to put the finishing touches on a national title.

“We just didn't make plays when we had opportunities to,” said NDSU head coach Matt Entz. “That's what's frustrating. We're better than the product we put out there today, I firmly believe that.”

In accounting for four total touchdowns, Gronowski totaled 223 yards on 14 of 21 passing and 57 more yards rushing, earning most outstanding player honors for his efforts.

“It means the world to me (to win a national championship),” Gronowski said. “I've got to thank every single person that's helped me along this journey and the guys that played an awesome game today. I'm so proud of them.”


Amar Johnson and Isaiah Davis both went over 100 yards on the day, finishing with a combined 229 yards (of the Jacks’ 283 total) on 31 attempts and one score apiece. Jadon Janke hauled in five passes for 61 yards, with Jaxon Janke catching three passes for 60 yards and two scores.

On defense, Jason Freeman recorded 10 tackles and an interception to lead SDSU. Steven Arrell forced the early fumble with Dalys Beanum on the recovery, and DyShawn Gales added a late interception.

For NDSU (12-3), Miller went 18-for-29 passing for 260 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions and also finished as the Bison’s leading rusher with 64 yards. Zach Mathis was the recipient of seven passes, which he turned into 123 yards, while Kobe Johnson added 63 rushing yards.

As the two stalwarts of the FCS, its only a matter of time before both SDSU and NDSU find their way back to the championship. Who knows, maybe another Dakota Marker rivalry rematch is in the cards for the not-so-distant future.

But in any case, the yellow and blue has now earned a label that had only been a tantalizing goal until now: South Dakota State, national champions.

"It feels so awesome to be on the other side of this," Gronowski said, alluding to SDSU's 23-21 title game defeat to Sam Houston in the spring of 2021. "The last time, it fueled us. We didn't want to have that feeling again, and that vengeance came out today. We really just put it to them."

"For me, I live through our players and always will, always have," Stiegelmeier added. "So my joy is great today because their joy is great. I love these guys, and I'll leave it at that."

Visit the Mitchell Republic for more coverage from SDSU's historic win in Frisco.

Zech Lambert is a sports reporter for the Mitchell Republic. He graduated from Penn State University in May 2022 and began at the Mitchell Republic in July 2022. He can be reached at or on Twitter @Zech_Lambert.
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