South Dakota Preview: Coyotes at Western Illinois
After turning the ball over 11 times in the last two weeks, South Dakota heads on the road for week five of the Missouri Valley Conference schedule hoping to right the ship against the only winless team in the league.
USD (3-5/2-2 MVFC) plays at Western Illinois, Saturday (November 2).
The Leathernecks (0-8/0-4 MVFC) have been plagued by their own turnover woes in the last two weeks with eight giveaways in losses to Illinois State and Youngstown State.
Offensively, Western is trying to fill several gaps at the skill positions after graduating some key talent from last year's team that went 4-4 in the Valley.
Junior quarterback Connor Sampson has had to throw the ball a lot lately thanks to big deficits on the scoreboard. He completed a school-record 34 passes against Illinois State two weeks ago.
His biggest weapon is junior Clint Ratkovich, who is listed as a running back on the roster but has done a little bit of everything in 2019 with 38 runs and 33 catches. Last season he made 12 grabs in a loss to the Coyotes.
South Dakota head coach Bob Nielson told me this is a group still trying to figure things out:
Defensively, the Leathernecks have talent throughout with linebacker Zach Glison and cornerback Demetri Royer both in the top ten in the league in tackles, lineman LaCale London in the top ten in tackles for loss and defensive back Marquis Smith in the top ten in passes defended.
Western is ninth in the conference in total defense, allowing 387 yards per game. They have only one interception and seven sacks in four MVFC games.
Giving up big plays has been an issue, especially last week against Youngstown where the Penguins broke off four different touchdown runs of more than 40 yards just in the first quarter.
Nielson says he can relate to what the Leathernecks are going through:
Kickoff is 1:00 PM, Saturday in Macomb.
Last weekend (October 26) the Coyotes were on the wrong end of the turnover battle for the second straight week in a 48-28 loss to Southern Illinois at the DakotaDome.
After giving it away six times the week before at Northern Iowa, USD committed five turnovers against the Salukis resulting in 28 points for the visitors.
Moving the ball was not the issue for the Coyote offense who had a pair of ten-play drives in the first 12 minutes but could manage only seven first-quarter points.
Nielson says that was a huge missed opportunity:
The second quarter was filled with USD mistakes on both sides of the ball.
The Coyote defense gave up a 48-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-one play, followed by the South Dakota offense throwing an interception and later committing a personal foul penalty followed by a fumble and then another pick.
On special teams, a USD offsides penalty on a Southern Illinois field goal attempt gave the Salukis a first down which they converted into a touchdown one play later.
Nielson ran down the second-quarter issues:
So after committing so many mistakes in the last two losses, I asked Nielson whether there's any concern about the errors becoming a mental thing for his football team: