South Dakota Preview: Coyotes Host #4 North Dakota State
The Coyotes (4-6/3-4) finish out the year hosting the five-time defending FCS National Champion #4 North Dakota State, knowing that a second straight victory over NDSU could greatly change not only the top of the MVFC standings, but the look of the opening round of the FCS Playoffs.
The Bison (9-1/6-1) are fourth in the latest FCS Stats Top 25, but have just moved into the number one spot in the far more important FCS Playoff Rankings, which determines which eight teams get first round bye in the post season. They also come into the final weekend of the regular season in a first place tie with South Dakota state in the MVFC standings.
NDSU is once again tough on defense, in the top ten in the nation in fewest points allowed and sacks, 11th against the run. Defensive end Greg Menard and linebacker MJ Stumpf are among the best in the nation in sacks and tackles for loss.
In the Missouri Valley Conference, the Bison are tied for the top spot with a plus-ten takeaway margin. Defensive backs Tre Dempsey and Jalen Allison have combined for nine interceptions this season.
Offensively, quarterback Easton Stick has been very efficient moving the ball around, with King Frazier and Lance Dunn in the top ten in the MVFC in rushing, and six different players catching touchdown passes in 2016.
North Dakota State is plenty motivated as they seek their sixth straight FCS title, but they are also trying to avenge their only conference loss from last season, a 24-21 October setback to South Dakota, in Fargo.
Kickoff in Vermillion is 2:00 PM, Saturday.
At South Dakota State last weekend, the Coyotes played their most competitive game of the Division I era in Brookings, but still came up short, 28-21. The seven-point loss was the eighth defeat of a touchdown or less for USD this season.
The Coyotes had a break go against them early in the game, when quarterback Chris Streveler appeared to pick up a first down in Jackrabbits territory, only to have a bad spot give the ball back to SDSU on downs.
Down 7-0, the South Dakota defense provided one of the biggest plays of the first half, when Jacob Warner met SDSU quarterback Taryn Christion at the goal line just time to turn a touchdown run into a fumble out of the back of the end zone and a touch back.
After tying the game at 7-7 just before half, the USD offense spent the second half answering Jackrabbit scores. Twice when SDSU found the end zone, the Coyotes responded, and the game was tied at 21 in the fourth quarter.
One play after getting the equalizer, the USD defense came up with another turnover, when Alex Gray intercepted a tipped Christion pass and returned it to the Jackrabbit 38. From there, the Coyotes did manage a first down, but they could get no closer than the 15-yard line, setting up a Miles Bergner 32-yard field goal attempt, that missed wide right. It was his first miss from inside 40 yards all season.
The Jackrabbits took advantage, capping an 11-play 80-yard drive with Christion touchdown run to make it 28-21.
The Coyotes had two more possessions to try and tie it, but had a quick three-and-out on one, and then had a Streveler pass picked off by Dallas Brown on the SDSU 39 to seal the game.
The seven point game overshadowed a huge day for the South Dakota State running attack - 415 yards and four touchdowns.
I talked with Coyote head coach Bob Nielson about the loss to the Jackrabbits and this week's match-up with North Dakota State: