FRISCO, Texas -- In a national title prize fight, Sam Houston landed the final, decisive punch.

The Bearkats scored on a 10-yard touchdown pass with 16 seconds left from quarterback Eric Schmid to receiver Ife Adeyi to clinch the national championship 23-21 Sunday at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

The catch, made between three SDSU defenders, capped a 16-play drive that included two fourth-down conversions, allowing the Bearkats (10-0) to swipe a comeback victory from the Jackrabbits (8-2), who trailed 17-7 to start the fourth quarter.

“This loss definitely hurts,” SDSU cornerback Don Gardner said. “It shows you that the game is truly a game of inches at the end of the day. To be so close but to come up short like that, that really hurts.”

The 17-7 lead was before freshman running back Isaiah Davis powered SDSU’s comeback in the fourth quarter. Davis had a 28-yard touchdown run early in the quarter to bring SDSU to within three points.

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Later, after the teams swapped three-and-out possessions, Davis had a 85-yard touchdown run with less than 6 minutes left to give SDSU the lead at 21-17. It was his third of the game after his short touchdown plunge in the first quarter put SDSU up 7-0.

Adeyi’s touchdown catch was followed by a missed extra point, giving SDSU some hopes of getting a potential game-winning field goal try. SDSU ran back-to-back hook-and-ladder pass plays, getting the ball over midfield but time ran out on the Jacks in the final seconds, allowing the Bearkats to celebrate their first national title.

“We were this close,” Davis said. “We know what it takes to get here. We've been here, we watched them celebrate, raise the trophy up, and like we know what it takes. We had 170 something practices to come up short one play.

Davis finished with 178 rushing yards on 14 carries and had 305 all-purpose yards thanks to 114 yards on kickoff returns. Schmid, who was punished by the SDSU defensive line throughout the game, was 20-for-37 with 209 yards and three touchdowns. Sam Houston receiver Jequez Ezzard, who scored two touchdowns and had 10 catches for 108 yards, was the game’s Most Outstanding Player.

“I mean, you're talking about the ultimate game and you have to make one last drive and you have a 4th down. We made that drive,” Sam Houston coach K.C. Keeler said.

SDSU’s offensive plans were blown up on the first drive of the game, when quarterback Mark Gronowoski was injured, playing only the five plays. He put on a knee brace on his left knee after being evaluated by medical staff but did not return to the game. That sent Keaton Heide into the game for SDSU, who started five games in 2019 after J’Bore Gibbs was hurt at the midway point of the season.

Stiegelmeier called it a serious injury for Gronowski, who was the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s player of the year in 2021.

“We'll evaluate it more, but it's a serious injury. Disappointed for him,” Stiegelmeier said, before commending Gronowski for staying on the sidelines and signaling in plays for Heide on offense as Heide has done for him this year.

SDSU scored first, taking advantage of a mishandled snap by Sam Houston in its own territory that was recovered by Tolu Ogunrinde. Five plays later, after a 20-yard run by Isaiah Davis to get to the goal line, Davis plunged up the middle on the next play and scored from a yard out to put SDSU ahead 7-0 midway through the first quarter.

A Jacks’ chance to go up by two scores slipped away moments later. Sam Houston mishandled a punt snap, giving SDSU the ball at the Bearkats’ 19-yard line. SDSU moved the ball just two yards in three plays and then a 34-yard field goal attempt for kicker Cole Frahm was botched by a mishandled snap, keeping the score at 7-0.

An illegal block in the back negated a would-be game-tying punt return touchdown from Ezzard to close out the first quarter. After the two teams traded three-and-out possessions, Ezzard caught a pass at the line of scrimmage in front of his sideline, broke numerous SDSU tackles and weaved his way to the end zone for a 35-yard touchdown catch from Schmid to tie the game.

SDSU got a good return from Davis moments later, and SDSU would run a handful of plays before the game was halted due to lightning within an 8-mile area of the stadium. The delay would last for 70 minutes, but the rain stopped after the delay, allowing the second half to be only affected by a muddy field.

As the second quarter winded down, Ezzard was again on the receiving end of a touchdown pass from Schmid, this time from 15 yards out to put Sam Houston up 14-7 before halftime.

Sam Houston added a 45-yard field goal late in the third quarter to give the Bearkats the 17-7 lead after three frames.

Scoring summary

First quarter

SDSU: Isaiah Davis 1 run (Cole Frahm kick), 7:33.

Second quarter

SH: Jequez Ezzard 35 pass from Eric Schmid (Seth Morgan kick), 11:16.

SH: Eqqard 15 pass from Schmid (Morgan kick), 1:21.

Third quarter

SH: Morgan 45 field goal, 0:37.

Fourth quarter

SDSU: Davis 28 run (Frahm kick), 13:12.

SDSU: Davis 85 run (Frahm kick), 5:41.

SH: Ife Adeyi 10 pass from Eric Schmid (kick missed), 0:16.