South Dakota Preview: #4 Coyotes at #24 Illinois State
After a bit of a breather against an over-matched Indiana State team, it's back to the Missouri Valley Conference grind for the University of South Dakota football team this week.
The unbeaten Coyotes (6-0/3-0 MVFC), still fourth in the latest FCS Polls, travel to #24 Illinois State (4-2/2-1) this weekend.
This is a Redbird program that has played in the FCS post season three straight years and four of the last five overall. But the 2017 Illinois State team is struggling, losers of back-to-back games after starting the year 4-0.
The Redbird offense has been an issue the past two weeks, scoring a combined 23 points against Northern Arizona and Southern Illinois.
Quarterback Jake Kolbe's numbers explain a large part of the problem. In those two losses, he tossed six interceptions and was sacked eight times. When he's getting protection, Kolbe's main target is wide receiver Spencer Schnell, who has 31 catches for a pair of scores.
The ISU defense has been the strength so far, allowing the fewest rushing yards of any team in the conference, just 70 per game and less than three yards per carry.
The Redbirds have a talented front seven. Linemen Adam Conley and James Graham have combined for seven sacks, while linebackers Tyree Horton and Bryce Holm are among the league's top 15 in tacklers.
On special teams, kickoff returner Artis Henderson is one of the league's top threats, while place kicker Sean Slattery leads the conference with ten field goals in 12 attempts, including a 51-yarder.
Kickoff in Normal, Illinois is 2:00 PM, Saturday.
The Coyotes were impressive in a 56-6 win over Indiana State last weekend.
USD's defense allowed a pair of scoring drives the first two times the Sycamores touched the ball, but kept Indiana State off the scoreboard for the final 44:02 of the game. The Coyotes allowed just 94 yards on the final nine possessions of the game.
Jim Litrenta had nine tackles, while Darin Greenfield and Nathan Schultz each had two tackles for loss.
The Coyote offense was as efficient as its been all year. USD scored touchdowns on five of their first six possessions, using the long ball to set up the first three scores.
Quarterback Chris Streveler threw for 337 yards and four scores in three quarters of work. He also added another 82 yards on the ground - 46 coming on a second quarter touchdown run. That effort landed the senior both FCS National and Missouri Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Ten different receivers caught passes as USD racked up more than 700 yards in total offense.
I talked with head coach Bob Nielson about the Indiana State win and the match-up with Illinois State: