South Dakota Preview: Coyotes at North Dakota
The University of South Dakota football team is hoping to ride the momentum of one of the most dramatic comebacks in school history into the Coyotes' final non-conference game of 2016.
USD, fresh off a double overtime thriller with Weber State, travels to North Dakota Saturday.
The Fighting Hawks (0-2), out of the Big Sky Conference, have been involved in a pair of close, low scoring games to start the season losing to Stony Brook and Bowling Green by a combined five points.
The UND offense has struggled to score points in the first two weeks, managing just three touchdowns in the first eight quarters of the season.
The Hawks are a run-first team, relying heavily on sophomore running back John Santiago, who has already amassed ten 100 yard rushing performances in his career. The latest was a 122-yard day in the 27-26 loss at Bowling Green last weekend.
Junior quarterback Keaton Studsrud started eight games last season, winning seven, while completing 60 percent of his passes. This season he's just below a 58 percent completion rate, with a touchdown and no interceptions.
Thru two games, the Hawks haven't really opened up the passing game. Studson's longest completion of the season is just 24 yards.
Defensively, North Dakota returns nine starters from the number one unit against the run in the Big Sky last season, allowing just 100 yards a game on the ground. They have sacked the opposing quarterback seven times in two games this season.
The UND secondary had a feast or famine day at Bowling Green in week two, picking off three passes, but allowing touchdown throws of 71 and 51 yards as part of a 327 yard day thru the air for the Falcons.
Kickoff in Grand Forks is 4:00 PM, Saturday.
Saturday's game marks the 95th meeting between USD and UND, dating back to 1903. Twice the teams have been conference foes. First, as members of the North Central Conference during the DII days, and later in the DI Great West Conference. The two schools played each other every year from 1946 until 2011. UND leads the series 29-60-5.
The Coyotes (1-1) are quickly learning how to play from behind this season.
A week after giving up a 75-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage at New Mexico, USD turned the ball over three times in the first six-and-a-half minutes last week, falling behind 21-0, before rallying for a 52-49 double overtime win at home against Weber State.
Quarterback Chris Streveler, who had an interception and fumble returned for scores in the first quarter against the Wildcats, recovered to throw for four touchdowns and run for two more. He was named the Missouri Valley Conference's Offensive Player of the Week.
Wide receiver Shamar Jackson caught six passes for 81 yards and three scores, while running back Trevor Bouma added 150 yards rushing.
Backup quarterback Austin Simmons filled in briefly for a shaken up Streveler and tossed the first touchdown pass of his collegiate career, hitting Riley Donovan in the fourth quarter.
Defensively, USD got back in the game thanks to a pair of interceptions from Adam Harris and two quarterback sacks from Colin Mertlik.
The Coyote defense will welcome back linebacker John Wessel for Saturday's game at UND. Wessel, a starter in each of past two seasons, missed the first two games of 2016 with an injury.
Miles Bergner drilled the game winning 34-yard field goal in the second overtime and averaged nearly 49 yards a punt against Weber State, pinning the Wildcats inside the 20-yard line twice. Bergner picked up the MVFC Special Teams Player of the Week award.
I asked Coyote head coach Bob Nielson about Saturday's game in Grand Forks: