South Dakota Falters Late against #5 South Dakota State, Closes Regular Season at #6 Illinois State Saturday
Everything leading up to Saturday's South Dakota State - South Dakota Missouri Valley Football Conference battle pointed to this being the most evenly matched game between the in-state rivals in the Division I era.
The game did not disappoint, as #5 SDSU put the game away late, 30-25.
For the first time in their last six meetings, the Coyotes put the ball in the end zone against the Jackrabbits in the first half, jumping out to a 7-0 lead on a Ryan Saeger-to-Brandt Van Roekel 40-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.
The Jackrabbits responded with a Jay Carlson 29-yard field goal and a Taryn Christion 10-yard TD run to take a 10-7 lead at the break.
The Coyotes did all of the scoring in the third quarter, starting with a Saeger 1-yard touchdown run combined with Miles Bergner field goals of 50 and 45 yards to take a 20-10 lead into the final 15 minutes. Three field goals on the day and a 41-yard punting average, earned Bergner Missouri Valley Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
The fourth quarter belonged to SDSU, with Zach Lujan taking over for Christion at quarterback, the Jackrabbits found the end zone twice on offense, with a pair of Kyle Paris touchdown runs, and 6-of-8 passing from Lujan, setting up those scores.
The South Dakota State defense provided the dagger with 7:30 to play, when Nick Farina grabbed a tipped Saeger pass and returned it 43-yards for a touchdown.
The loss was South Dakota's seventh straight to SDSU, the longest USD skid in the history of the series, which dates back to 1889.
The Coyotes (5-5/3-4) hopes of making the FCS Playoffs for the first time were dashed, but their goal of finishing with a winning record is still in tact.
Standing in their way is #6 Illinois State.
The Redbirds (8-2/6-1) needed a second half comeback at Southern Illinois last weekend to keep their hopes of a Top Eight playoff seed alive, as they reeled off 28 straight to beat the Salukis 42-21.
Illinois State has three of the top offensive weapons in the league, with the #1 rusher, Marshaun Coprich, the second best passer, Tre Roberson, and a top five receiver, Anthony Warrum.
Kickoff is at noon Saturday in Normal, Illinois.
I talked with USD head coach Joe Glenn about the South Dakota State loss and the game with the #6 Redbirds this weekend: