South Dakota Preview: Coyotes Host Illinois State
You can say what you want about the 2016 South Dakota football season so far, but whatever you do - don't call it boring.
In the last five games, the Coyotes have been involved in a trio of double overtime thrillers, the latest a three point win at Indiana State to move USD a game back in the Missouri Valley Football Conference standings as we approach the halfway point of the league schedule this week.
The Coyotes (3-3/2-1) will try to run their win streak to three straight as they host Illinois State at the DakotaDome.
The Redbirds (3-4/1-3) were ranked as high as fifth in the nation earlier this season, thanks in part to a non-conference win over Northwestern of the Big Ten.
But the start of MVFC play has been rough for ISU, with three straight losses before finally notching a win last week at home against Southern Illinois.
The Redbird defense has been one of the best in the Valley this season - #3 overall and #2 against the pass. They have a trio of linebackers in the Top 20 in the conference in tackles, and lineman Dalton Keene is the MVFC Player of the Week after nine tackles, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and a blocked field goal in the Southern Illinois win.
Offensively, sophomore quarterback Jake Kolbe has thrown for more than 1,600 yards in seven games, but the ISU offensive line has allowed a league-worst 25 sacks.
The Redbirds have also been fumble prone, putting the ball on the ground 14 times, losing five.
ISU's main weapons on offense are running back James Robinson, who is averaging better than five yards a carry and rolled up 122 yards last week, and wide receiver Anthony Warrum, who is fourth in the league with 86 yards per game.
Kickoff in Vermilion is 2:00 PM, Saturday.
At Indiana State last week, the Coyotes jumped out to an early 17-3 lead, thanks to a 69-yard touchdown pass from Chris Streveler to Alonge Brooks, and an Andrew Gray forced fumble, recovered by Tyson Graham, which set up a Trevor Bouma scoring run.
The USD defense forced three turnovers in regulation, but allowed touchdown passes of 46, 48, and 28 yards to allow the Sycamores to pull to within three late.
The Coyote offense, led by backup quarterback Ryan Saeger in the second half after an injury to Streveler, could have closed the game out with a first down in the final two minutes, but went three-and-out, allowing Indiana State to kick a game-tying field goal with 12 seconds left.
After trading field goals in the first overtime, USD took the lead in the second extra period on Miles Bergner's fourth field goal of the day.
When the Sycamores took over, they tried to catch the Coyote defense napping on third-and-two when quarterback Isaac Harker threw a backward pass to receiver Kelvin Cook who then attempted a throw downfield only to see USD's Jacob Warner step in from of the pass for a game-ending interception in the 33-30 double overtime win.
I asked Coyote head coach Bob Nielson about the win in Terre Haute and this week's match-up with Illinois State: