WORCESTER — The Holy Cross football team set off on the next step of its incredible 2022 journey Friday morning, departing for South Dakota State and its Saturday showdown with the top-ranked and top-seeded Jackrabbits in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) quarterfinals.
“We’re all very excited to get on a big plane and fly out west,” senior linebacker Liam Anderson said during the team’s sendoff from the Luth Athletic Complex. “It’s not something we get to do too often. We’re really excited, excited for everyone’s support. It’s going to be a fun Saturday.”
Kickoff is at noon at SDSU’s Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings, South Dakota.
Holy Cross cheerleaders, fans and friends yelled and applauded the Crusaders as they left the Luth to board buses to take them to T.F. Green Airport in Providence for their charter flight.
“You can’t get to this point without the support of an awful lot of people,” Holy Cross director of athletics Kit Hughes said. “I know the players, the coaches, the staff are incredibly grateful for everybody in the community.”
The undefeated (12-0) and eighth-seeded Crusaders are looking to become the first Patriot League team to advance to the national semifinals since Colgate in 2003.
“Our guys are ready,” HC coach Bob Chesney said. “We had a great week of practice. We understand what lies ahead — a very tough opponent and the No. 1 team in the country. We have to play our best football. It’s going to be about us, what product of football we put on that football field, how well we execute and how long and how well we stick together.
“We’re really excited about this opportunity.”
Holy Cross captured its fourth straight Patriot League title and automatic FCS playoff berth. This will be HC’s second trip to SDSU in less than two years. The Crusaders played the Jackrabbits in the first round of the playoffs during the spring 2021 COVID-19 season. South Dakota State beat HC, 31-3.
“It’s really exciting going back, and it’s really full circle,” said senior offensive lineman C.J. Hanson, who made his first career start at SDSU. “The energy is pumping. We’ve had such a great season and I can’t wait to bring our team out there and show them what we’ve got.”
As the No. 8 seed, Holy Cross earned a first-round bye in the playoffs and defeated New Hampshire, 35-19, in the second round last weekend at Fitton Field to become the first 12-win team in program history.
South Dakota State (11-1) beat Delaware, 42-6, in its first-round game. The Jackrabbits’ only loss was to FBS opponent Iowa.
HC-SDSU, which is on ESPN, is one of only two college football games Saturday. Army and Navy clash at 3.
“This is a big deal,” Hughes said, “playing on a national stage, and being one of two games, we’re going to have people watching us from all over the world. This is a big deal for the college. This isn’t just about Crusader football; this is the entire college being showcased for the world to see. It’s a great opportunity to tell our story and tell people about the community and what we’re doing here in Worcester.”
—Contact Jennifer Toland at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @JenTolandTG.
This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: Holy Cross sends off undefeated Crusaders eying FCS quarterfinal upset