CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Mark Gronowski passed for two touchdowns, including a 1-yarder to Pierre Strong with 19 seconds left, and ran for another to help South Dakota State beat Northern Iowa 24-20 on Friday night.
Grownowski, a freshman, was 19-of-29 passing for 194 yards and no interceptions. Strong finished with 91 yards rushing on 22 carries and had six receptions for 31 yards. Zach Heins added 90 yards receiving on five catches for South Dakota State (1-0, 1-0 Missouri Valley Conference).
The teams kicked off an unprecedented spring slate of FCS football games after the fall season was upended by the coronavirus pandemic.
SDSU, ranked No. 5 in the STATS FCS polls, took a 17-7 lead into the halftime after Gronowski scored on a 5-yard run with 1:24 left in the second quarter. Matthew Cook made field goals of 43 and 35 yards before Will McElvain’s 14-yard touchdown pass to Tysen Kershaw gave third-ranked UNI (0-1, 0-1) a three-point lead with 5:59 to play. Gronowski led a 10-play, 75-yard drive capped when he rolled to his right and hit a wide-open Strong to give South Dakota State a 24-20 lead with 19 seconds left.
McElvain was 19-of-29 passing for 164 yards.
UNI converted just 2-of-12 third downs and finished with 192 total yards.