We're only halfway through the 2018 Missouri Valley Conference football schedule, but already the season is on the line for South Dakota, as the Coyotes get set to host top-ranked North Dakota State, Saturday (October 27).

USD, already with back-to-back league losses, can ill afford a third Missouri Valley Conference defeat if they have designs on making it back to the FCS Playoffs for the second straight year.

The Bison (7-0/4-0 MVFC) come to the DakotaDome with the nation's longest current winning streak at 13 games.

NDSU is getting it done with the two things they always seem to do very well - run the football on offense and stop the run on defense.

When they have the ball, running backs Bruce Anderson and Lance Dunn combine for 150 yards per game for an overall running attack that tops 250 yards on average. Quarterback Easton Stick contributes to the running game with a better than five yard per carry average.

Anderson missed last week's game against Illinois State with an injury and is not listed on the NDSU depth chart for the USD game.

Stick throws the ball just enough to keep defenses honest. When he does go to the air, Darrius Shepherd is likely his target with more than a third of the team's receptions in 2018. Last season against the Coyotes, Stick was 11-of-12 for 307 yards and a touchdown.

Defensively, the Bison are the only team in the Missouri Valley to allow less than 100 yards per game rushing. They also put tremendous pressure on opposing quarterbacks, with 22 sacks in seven games. That pressure means opportunities for the secondary which has returned two interceptions for touchdowns this season.

North Dakota State is tied for the FCS lead with a plus-11 margin on turnovers.

Kickoff is 2:00 PM, Saturday in Vermillion.

Last weekend (October 20), the Coyotes (3-4/2-2 MVFC) started slowly in a 29-17 loss at Youngstown State.

USD fumbled the ball away on their third play from scrimmage and managed just 43 yards of total offense in the first half, trailing the Penguins 22-0 at intermission.

The second half was a different story as the Coyote defense forced two turnovers and the offense started clicking with a chance to pull to within one score in the third quarter.

But USD couldn't find the end zone after having it first-and-goal from the two-yard line, settling instead for a field goal.

A Penguin pick-six midway through the fourth quarter put the game out of reach for good.

I talked with Coyotes head coach Bob Nielson about the Youngstown State loss and the match-up with North Dakota State:


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