South Dakota Preview: Coyotes at #11 South Dakota State
The weekly grind that is the Missouri Valley Football Conference is something all ten league teams can attest to. But the task facing the University of South Dakota over the final two weeks of the 2016 regular season is daunting - even by MVFC standards.
That's the bad news.
The good news? If USD can run the table, they would make an impressive case for an FCS Playoff spot, knowing that two other league schools (Indiana State - 2014 and Western Illinois, 2015) recently qualified for the post season with five losses.
The fifth South Dakota Showdown Series game will pit the Coyote defense against the MVFC's top offense. SDSU leads the league in scoring, passing and total yards gained and boasts the top two in receiving yardage in the conference, tight end Dallas Goedert and wide receiver Jake Wieneke, who have become the first duo in school history to have each have 1,000 yard seasons in the same year.
The Jackrabbits (6-3/5-1) re-discovered their running game last week against Missouri State, going over 200 yards for the second time with a record-tying six rushing touchdowns from four different running backs.
They'll be going against a Coyote defense that is last in the Valley in stopping the run, but features a player with the second most tackles for loss this season (DL Taylor Lambert), a top five tackler (LB Jet Moreland), a player with the third most interceptions (Jacob Warner), and a player with the third most forced fumbles (Andrew Gray).
The SDSU defense has seen the emergence of redshirt freshman Christian Rozeboom at linebacker. Rozeboom is third in the Valley in tackles and forced fumbles. Junior Kellen Soulek is fourth in sacks. The Jackrabbits as a team as second in sacks, third in passing defense.
USD's offense is led by junior Chris Streveler, who is the top running quarterback in the MVFC, averaging nearly 70 yards a game on the ground. The University of Minnesota transfer is fourth in total offense, throwing for 208 yards per game. Senior running back Trevor Bouma is sixth in rushing, while junior Alonge Brooks is coming off a season-high six catches for 110 yards last week against Southern Illinois.
The Coyotes biggest problem has been early turnovers this season. Eight of USD's 17 giveaways have been in the first quarter, including six of Streveler's seven interceptions.
Kickoff in Brookings is 2:00 PM, Saturday.
This series dates back to the first year South Dakota became a state - 1889. The Coyotes have never beaten the Jackrabbits in four meetings at the Division I level and have lost seven straight in this series overall. USD's last win over SDSU was in 2000.
Last weekend, the Coyotes went on the road and lost 35-28 at Southern Illinois, giving the Salukis their first win in conference play this year.
USD began the game with back-to-back offensive possessions that ended with interceptions and trailed by three scores early in the fourth quarter before mounting a furious comeback with a pair of touchdowns in the final 7:30 to draw within seven.
In the final seconds, the Coyotes had four chances from inside the SIU five yard line to tie the game, but had a dropped pass in the end zone, two other incompletions, and a one-yard run to come up just short.
I talked with Coyote head coach Bob Nielson about the loss to the Salukis and this week's match-up with South Dakota State: