South Dakota Preview: #6 Coyotes at Northern Iowa
The road to a first-ever Missouri Valley Conference championship for the South Dakota Coyotes will literally take them on the road for two of the final three games of the 2017 regular season, starting Saturday (November 4) at Northern Iowa.
The Coyotes (7-1/4-1 MVFC ) begin the week one game behind first place North Dakota State in the standings, while moving up from seventh to sixth in the FCS Coaches Poll.
The Panthers (4-4/3-2 MVFC) are unranked, but if they can run the table, they would finish with seven wins, a number that traditionally puts Missouri Valley teams in the FCS Playoffs.
Northern Iowa has an accomplished passer in quarterback Eli Dunne, who has 19 touchdown passes and has completed better than 60 percent of his passes this season. His favorite target is Daurice Fountain, a top five receiver in the conference, averaging 84 yards per game.
But the UNI running game has been the key. Running back Marcus Weymiller has only had carries in four games, but in those four he's averaging 185 yards.
Protection has been a problem for the Panthers offensive line. They've allowed 22 sacks in eight games.
Speaking of sacks, Northern Iowa's Rickey Neal leads the conference with 6.5. The Panthers also have two linebackers - Jared Farley and Duncan Ferch - who are in the top ten in the MVFC in tackles, averaging 18 a game between them. In the secondary, Elijah Campbell had two interceptions last week against North Dakota State.
Kickoff in Cedar Falls is 1:00 PM, Saturday.
The Coyotes are coming off of an impressive 42-0 win at home over Southern Illinois, but there was still plenty of drama for USD.
Before the game, three South Dakota defenders, including starters Danny Rambo and Adam Harris, were suspended indefinitely, and then on the game's first possession, Coyote quarterback Chris Streveler went down with a shoulder injury.
South Dakota did not miss a beat without those players.
The Coyote offense had back-to-back touchdown drives in the first half and three straight touchdown drives in the second half, as running backs Mike Fredrick and Kai Henry combined for nearly 170 yards rushing and backup quarterback Austin Simmons went 11-of-18 through the air, including two scores.
The South Dakota defense rose to the occasion by forcing five Saluki turnovers, including four interceptions. Two of those picks were returned for touchdowns in the second half. Andrew Gray went 97 yards on the first, Mike Johnson 79 yards on the second.
I talked with head coach Bob Nielson about the Southern Illinois win and the match-up with Northern Iowa: