VERMILLION, SD -- The DakotaDome on South Dakota’s campus will play host to two Missouri Valley programs looking to draw even in league play Saturday when the Coyotes (1-3, 0-1 MVFC) host the Leathernecks of Western Illinois (2-2, 0-1) during Dakota Days at 2 p.m.

Illinois State is the common denominator for both teams heading into conference game number two. The Redbirds followed a 23-3 win at Western Sept. 22 with a 34-31 victory against the Coyotes last Saturday in what was the Missouri Valley debut for South Dakota.

USD’s offense racked up a season-high 470 yards against an Illinois State defense that limited the Leathernecks to 137. Running back Marcus Sims accounted for 120 yards on the ground and added a 41-yard touchdown reception. Quarterback Josh Vander Maten threw for a career-best 253 yards which included three second-half touchdowns.

Western Illinois runs the ball to the tune of 150 yards per game, but has just 378 yards passing through four games. Only seven teams in the nation have thrown for less. A senior quarterback, two senior receivers and a bye week should only help the Leathernecks.

“They have had a different offensive scheme for each game,” said USD defensive coordinator Jason Petrino. “They ran a lot of power against Indianapolis, did some three-back stuff against Iowa State and ran some wildcat against Illinois State. It will be interesting to see what plays they like to run against a three-man front.”

Senior running back Caulton Ray and sophomore Nikko Watson have accounted for all but 33 of Western’s rushing yards this season. Ray needs 48 yards to become the ninth Leatherneck to reach 2,000 yards rushing during a career.

A talented middle linebacker lies at the strength of both defensive units. USD senior Tim Marlette (No. 25) is coming off a career-best, 15-tackle performance against the Redbirds. Redshirt freshman J.J. Raffelson (No. 43) has 42 stops in four games for Western.

South Dakota will put pressure on the quarterback to try to slow down any passing attack. Western’s strength lies more in its personnel in the secondary. The Leathernecks have just one sack, but counter with seven interceptions.

“Western has the ability to play a number of different coverages,” said USD offensive coordinator Wesley Bechorner. “They have a special group of corners that are going to be fun to play against. They have great speed, good hands and the ability to change directions.”

Western also has familiarity with USD. Defensive coordinator Brian Ward was a defensive backs coach at North Dakota State in 2010. Defensive line coach Jake Sprague spent his prior four seasons in Vermillion with the Coyotes.

South Dakota continues to stress the importance of playing smart football. The Coyotes have racked up 20 penalties in their last two games.

“I have never had this issue before, not as a quarterback or as a coach,” said Beschorner. “We have some new players on our line and a lot of it is attributed to anxiety. We don’t make those mistakes in practice. We continue to talk about it as a team and we hope to correct those things Saturday.”

Seven weeks remain of the regular season, but DakotaDome will serve as host just one more time after Saturday. The Coyotes’ last true home game comes Nov. 10 against Northern Iowa. USD will be considered the home team Oct. 20 in Sioux Falls when the Coyotes take on North Dakota State.

Courtesy:  University of South Dakota