FRISCO, Texas — For as long as they live, whether they win a national championship later in their careers or not, the South Dakota State football team that went to Texas on Sunday to complete the 2020 season in the spring of 2021 will forever be asking what if.
What if the weather had been better early?
What if freshman quarterback Mark Gronowski hadn't got hurt on the first series of the game?
What if they had made one more stop?
Those are all questions that will haunt SDSU's players, coaches and fans throughout what will be a very short offseason.
But it was the Jackrabbits themselves who insisted all week that applying an asterisk to the FCS spring season was petty and disrespectful. So there can be no 'yeah, buts'. Yes, just about everything that could've gone wrong for South Dakota State on Sunday at Toyota Stadium did through the first two-thirds of the game, but Sam Houston won, 23-21. They are the national champs.
With the win, Sam Houston claims its first FCS championship. Their coach, K.C. Keeler, becomes the first coach ever to lead two different schools to the FCS title (Delaware, 2003). And the Jacks, who had won seven in a row to reach Frisco for the first time in program history, will have to settle for having finally taken that step, while their national championship trophy case remains empty.
Eric Schmid's 10-yard pass to Ife Adeyi with 16 seconds left propelled the Bearkats to the win, minutes after SDSU had come back from a 10-point deficit to take a 21-17 lead.
It's hard to argue the Bearkats (10-0) aren't deserving champs. They beat the defending champs (North Dakota State), top-ranked team (James Madison) and top-seed (SDSU) to win the title.
Quarterback Eric Schmid delivered a heroic performance, throwing for 209 yards and three touchdowns, rushing for 54, and taking a beating in doing it.
Ramon Jefferson rushed for 96 yards for SHSU and Jequez Ezzard caught 10 passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns.
Isaiah Davis did everything possible to keep the Jacks alive, rushing for 178 yards and three touchdowns, including a late 85-yarder that, even in defeat, will go down in Jackrabbit history as an all-time run.
But the Jacks (8-2) were left fairly one-dimensional without Gronowski, whose status going forward will be a major question mark for an SDSU program that will have to pick up the pieces quickly to reload for another shot this fall.
This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: FCS championship: Sam Houston State gets last-minute TD to defeat SDSU