South Dakota Preview: #7 Coyotes Host Southern Illinois
After tasting defeat for the first time in 2017 and falling out of first place in the Missouri Valley Conference, the University of South Dakota football team is back home this week, looking to start a new win streak.
The Coyotes (6-1/3-1 MVFC ) slipped from fourth to seventh in the latest FCS Polls, and host unranked Southern Illinois, Saturday (October 28).
The Salukis (4-3/2-2 MVFC) are on a roll.
SIU has won two straight with an explosive offense leading the way. In victories over Illinois State and Indiana State, Southern Illinois has scored 87 points and amassed more than 900 yards of total offense.
The Salukis have the number two passing attack in the league, throwing more passes than anyone (270) and averaging better than 270 yards a game. Quarterback Sam Straub has thrown 20 touchdown passes and just nine interceptions. He threw for 340 yards and two scores in a win over USD last year.
Darell James and Connor Iwena are his favorite targets. They have combined for 66 catches and nine touchdowns.
Straub is the best protected quarterback in the Missouri Valley. He's been sacked just three times in seven games.
South Dakota counters with the top passing offense in the league. The Coyotes have completed more passes (171) than anyone in the conference. Quarterback Chris Streveler has thrown 19 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Both picks came last weekend (October 21) against Illinois State.
On defense, Southern Illinois has intercepted ten passes so far in 2017. Ryan Neal and Jeremy Chinn have three picks each. Last season, SIU intercepted Streveler twice and sacked him three times.
This season, the Salukis have also been very good at forcing turnovers. They lead the Missouri Valley with nine fumble recoveries. Meanwhile, Anthony Knighton is in the top ten with four sacks.
One thing SIU did very effectively against USD last year was limit the Coyotes to just 1-of-15 on third down.
Field position will also be a key. The Salukis have the conference's top punter. Lane Reazin is averaging 45 yards a kick and his cover team is limiting opponents to just one yard per return.
Kickoff in Vermillion is 3:00 PM, Saturday.
Last week's 31-27 loss at Illinois State was not only the Coyotes first setback of 2017, but also a game they had plenty of chances to win.
After spotting the Redbirds a 14-0 lead, USD regrouped to tie the game, before trailing 17-14 at the half.
In the second half, the Coyote offense crossed into Illinois State territory five different times, but came away with just one touchdown.
After turning the ball over just twice in the previous six games, USD committed two turnovers against the Redbirds - both coming on the ISU side of the 50-yard line.
Defensively, South Dakota gave up a season high 331 yards rushing.
I talked with head coach Bob Nielson about the Illinois State loss and the match-up with Southern Illinois: