VERMILLION, SD -- South Dakota begins its first season in the Missouri Valley by hosting unbeaten and 12th-ranked Illinois State at 2 p.m. Saturday inside DakotaDome.

USD was a charter member of the North Central Conference, which formed in 1922. The Coyotes announced their intention to move to Division I FCS in 2006. Now, 90 years after starting the NCC, South Dakota is ready to write its first chapter in the MVFC.

The Missouri Valley added to the drama by making the Coyotes wait an extra week. Eight of the league’s 10 teams began conference play a week ago including Illinois State, which topped Western Illinois 23-3 in Macomb. South Dakota welcomes Western Illinois for Dakota Days next weekend.

Illinois State is 4-0 for the first time in 45 years. To remain unbeaten, the Redbirds will have to get past a Coyote team that has won 41 of its last 46 games in front of the home crowd. South Dakota’s current seven-game home win streak includes two wins against ranked foes.

Saturday is a rematch of game played a year ago in Normal, Ill. The Redbirds prefaced the strength of the Missouri Valley by holding South Dakota to 108 yards of offense in a 28-3 drubbing. The Coyotes completed five passes for 25 yards in that one.

Illinois State makes its first trip to DakotaDome with a quarterback who leads the league in touchdown passes and a running back who leads the league in touchdown runs. Both are seniors. Matt Brown (10 TDs) was 16-of-26 for 210 yards and a score in the Redbirds’ win against Western last week. Darrelynn Dunn (7 TDs), meanwhile, ran for 114 yards and two touchdowns.

South Dakota (1-2) is coming off a 38-7 loss to Northwestern of the Big Ten. Quarterback Josh Vander Maten passed for a career-high 189 yards and also led the team in rushing with 39 yards and a score. Vander Maten has had a hand in five of the Coyotes’ eight touchdowns scored this season.

USD’s defense held three teams to less than 15 rushing yards a year ago, but has had little success in stopping the run this season. All three Coyote opponents have broken the 200-yard mark. South Dakota overcame Colgate’s 237-yard effort by gaining five sacks and forcing two turnovers to earn a 31-21 win in game two. More of the same will likely be needed for USD to pull off the upset.

Coach to Cure MD:  For the fifth year in a row, college football coaches nationwide will join together in support of the Coach to Cure MD program, which will be held during Saturday’s games. The rapidly growing annual effort has raised more than a million dollars to battle Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

AFCA members will wear a Coach to Cure MD logo patch on the sidelines and college football fans will be asked to donate to research projects supported by Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (PPMD), the largest nonprofit organization in the U.S. focused entirely on Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Football fans can donate to Duchenne muscular dystrophy research by either going online to or by texting the word CURE to 90999 (a $5 donation will automatically be added to your next phone bill).

Courtesy:  University of South Dakota