South Dakota Preview: Coyotes at #14 Northern Iowa
Nobody's hotter in the Missouri Valley Conference over the past two weeks than the South Dakota Coyotes, who have outscored opponents 83-10 in the last eight quarters to start league play unbeaten and run their overall win streak to three games.
USD (3-3/2-0 MVFC) is on the road for the second straight week as they play at Northern Iowa, Saturday (October 19).
The Panthers (3-3/1-1 MVFC) had been one of the top teams in the Valley against the run before giving up 347 yards on the ground in a blowout loss to top-ranked North Dakota State last weekend at home.
Sophomore linebackers Bryce Flater and senior cornerback Christian Jegen are both in the top eight in the league in tackles, while redshirt junior defensive end Elerson Smith leads the Valley with 7.5 sacks and is second with 11.5 tackles for loss.
South Dakota head coach Bob Nielson told me the defense is the strength of this UNI team:
Offensively, Northern Iowa has a pair of talented receivers in sophomores Deion McShane and Isaiah Weston. Weston currently leads the league with 85 yards per game.
The Panther quarterback is redshirt freshman Will McEllvain who has thrown for more than 1,300 yards this season with just one interception.
Nielson says McEllvain is showing a maturity beyond his years:
Kickoff is 4:00 PM, Saturday in Cedar Falls.
The Coyotes head to Iowa with three straight wins to their credit after starting the year 0-3.
USD's latest triumph, a 45-10 win at Missouri State last Saturday (October 12), came despite a less than impressive start in Springfield, beginning with starting defensive back Mark Collins going down in pre-game warmups and then the Coyotes turning the ball over and committing a costly penalty early in the game.
Nielson says it was an unusual way to start the day:
But after that slow start, it was all Coyotes from there as USD reeled off 31 points in the next 12 minutes to blow the game wide open.
Austin Simmons found Caleb Vander Esch for a pair of first-half touchdown passes. But it was all set up by the Coyote running game, as Ben Klett added a pair of scoring runs, including a 57-yarder.
After gaining less than 300 yards on the ground in the first three games combined, the Coyotes have now run for 200 or more each of the last three games.
Nielson says that ability to run the football opens everything up:
The South Dakota defense did their part as well, limiting the Bears to just three second-half points and allowing them to convert just three times on 15 third-down attempts for the game.
Individually, linebacker Jack Cochrane had a big first-half interception to go with seven tackles on the day. Nielson says it was an impressive showing:
With three straight wins under their belts, Nielson says his team is finally clicking in all aspects of the game: