SAU defeats Dakota State 27-24
SAU defeats Dakota State 27-24
Dakota State University
(RV)St. Ambrose
Football - Sat, Sep. 2, 2017

Facing a team that threw for 452 yards last week, it was the St. Ambrose defense and running game that stole the show Saturday at Brady Street Stadium.

The Bees limited Dakota State to just 307 yards of total offense and Baylee Hopps scored the game-winning touchdown while powering the running attack in a 27-24 season-opening win.

Hopps' 24-yard score came in spectacular fashion with just 2:04 to play. He appeared to be stopped around the 20-yard line but he rolled over the tackler and with his knee never hitting the turf, he continued his run into the end zone, capping his 27-carry, 172-yard afternoon.

As it did most of the game, the SAU defense came up with another stop. Kobe Easley had a big pass breakup on first down and on a third-and-8 play, Chris Overton tracked down the quarterback for a nine-yard sack. A desperation pass on fourth down was broken up by Jake Schramm leading the Bees to run out the final 71 seconds.

Dakota State (1-1), which put up 56 points in a win over No. 17 Dakota Wesleyan last week and hung 519 yards and 62 points on the Bees last year, was held largely in check. The SAU defense set the tone early, forcing three 3-and-outs in the first quarter alone.

The Bee offense led 6-0 after one behind a pair of Kenny Rowe field goals, but the margin could have been more. St. Ambrose settled for the 23- and 22-yard field goals after facing first-and-goal situations from the one- and eight-yard line on two first-quarter drives.

SAU punched in a touchdown early in the second quarter after the defense forced another Trojan three-and-out. Jake Romani connected with Chase Ferger on a 36-yard touchdown pass to push the lead to 13-0.

The high-octane Dakota State offense finally cracked the St. Ambrose defense with a three-play, 75-yard drive to get to witin 13-7. Late in the half, the Trojans recovered a fumble and kicked a 41-yard field goal on the final play of the half to trim the margin to 13-10.

DSU took the lead in the opening minutes of the third quarter, capitalizing on good field position, to score on a 36-yard touchdown pass for a 17-13 lead.

But the Bees came right back. Romani and Ferger hooked up on two big plays - a 33-yard completion on the first play of the drive and a two-yard touchdown strike to cap the possession for a 20-17 lead.

Again St. Ambrose had opportunities for more but came up empty as Romani was intercepted in the end zone late in the third quarter and again early in the fourth.

Midway through the fourth, Dakota State pieced together a rare sustained drive to regain the lead. The 11-play, 88-yard drive ended with a 39-yard touchdown toss to put the Bees in a 24-20 hole with 6:27 left.

SAU answered with its game-winning drive. Romani hit Lucas Boraas with a 16-yard pass on a third-and-12 play and Justice O'Conner had an 11-yard run to move the Bees to the Dakota State 30-yard line. After a six-yard run, Hopps broke free for his game winner.

Hopps, O'Conner (79 yards) and Melvin Pettis (47) combined for 298 of SAU's 302 yards on the ground. It was the most rushing yards for an SAU team since the Bees ran for 339 yards at Waldorf late in the 2013 season. Behind the ground game, St. Ambrose possessed the ball for more than 37 minutes.

Romani completed 16 passes for 223 yards. Ferger hauled in five passes for 86 yards and the two scores.

While the Bees totaled 525 yards and 32 first downs on 100 plays, the SAU defense allowed just 307 yards and 14 first downs on 59 plays. Easley, Grant Wallace and Dillon Valdez were each in on seven tackles. Jim Morrissey and Taylor White had six each.

The Bees will host Lindenwood-Belleville next Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.