Cougars Defense Paves The Way To 35-10 Victory At Wayne State
WAYNE, NE — In recent years, Sioux Falls’ best offense, at times, has been its defense.
That was certainly the case Saturday, as USF’s (6-5, 4-3 NSIC South) suffocating defense keyed the Cougars’ 35-10 win over the Wayne State College on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon at Bob Cunningham Field in Wayne, Neb., in the season finale for both squads.
The Cougars’ defense allowed 297 yards of total offense on 78 plays, with 75 yards coming on a 17-play drive that ended with a Wildcat fumble at the USF one-yard line.
After a scoreless first quarter, Solomon St. Pierre’s first-career pick-six kick-started a Cougar defense that made big plays all day long, forcing the Wildcats (2-9, 1-6 NSIC South) into seven turnovers.
The sophomore defensive back leaped up and snatched a Zach Osborn pass out of the air and sprinted 70 yards to paydirt to give the visiting Cougars the 7-0 advantage with 11:48 left in the second quarter. Osborn was picked off twice, while starting Wildcat quarterback Nate Most was harassed into three interceptions. USF entered the contest with just four interceptions in 10 games.
The Wildcats responded with a 17-play drive that gobbled up nearly 10 minutes of clock but came away empty-handed when the ball popped loose while Chad Koch tried to leap over a pile at the goal line and Thad Campbell recovered it for the Cougars. It certainly was timely, as Carrington Hanna led an 11-play, 80-yard drive capped by his eight-yard touchdown strike to fellow senior Austin Vanhove to put the Cougars in front 14-0 with only 22 seconds remaining in the half.
The Cougars received the ball to start the second half and set up shop inside their own 25 after senior Dakota Fiene’s 23-yard return. Five plays and less than two minutes later, redshirt freshman Brady Rose burst loose to stake the Cougars to a 21-0 lead with a 52-yard touchdown rush.
Wayne State got on the scoreboard with a 49-yard field goal at the 9:26 mark of the second quarter. Sioux Falls would endure a miserable second-half offensive drought with four straight 3-and-outs but in one of the wildest sequences you’ll ever see, each of the Wildcats’ four ensuing drives ended with an interception. St. Pierre brought down his second pick while Ryan Graber (2) and Camerson Ostrom accounted for the other three INTs.
Graber’s second pick came on 3rd-and-8 at the Wildcat 22 and after being gifted 15 yards on a Wayne State personal foul penalty, Rose bolted 14 yards for the early fourth quarter score.
Rose started in place of Nephi Garcia for the second straight game and ran 15 times for a career-high 111 yards and two touchdowns to become the third Cougar to tally a 100-yard rushing game this season (Luke Papilion, Nephi Garcia).
The Cougar defense forced a punt on the following drive but a muffed punt return gave the Wildcats a short field and they capitalized on the mistake when Osborn connected with Nate Rogers for a 33-yard touchdown pass.
After stopping the Wildcats on 4th-and-4 at their own 41, the Cougars put the final nail in the coffin when Fiene barreled into the endzone from one yard out for his first-career touchdown in his final collegiate game.
Hanna finished 17-for-32 for 162 yards and a score. He also tallied 51 yards rushing on 11 attempts a caught an eight-yard pass from Matt Young en route to being named the Egg Bowl MVP for the Cougars. Hanna ends his Cougar career with 4,051 yards (combined passing/receiving/rushing) yards and accounted for 34 touchdowns.
Vanhove hauled in six catches for 78 yards while Wes Smith was credited for 35 yards on four receptions.
John Batinich gave the defense a boost, posting a team-high 12 tackles. St. Pierre had five tackles, all solo, to go with his two picks for a total of 70 yards. Graber finished with two interceptions, a pass breakup and a pair of tackles.
The Wildcats nearly doubled up USF in time of possession, 39:04-20:56. It’s the eighth time this season that USF, which ranks last in the NSIC in TOP, saw its offensive players spend less time on the field than the opponent.
With the victory, USF ends its season with winning record for the 20th straight year.
Courtesy: University of Sioux Falls