South Dakota State Beats South Dakota in Showdown Series Match-Up
In a game of twist and turns, seized opportunities and missed opportunities, and the emotional ups and downs associated with a big rivalry game, South Dakota State did just enough to beat South Dakota, 27-12, in Vermillion Saturday.
The Jackrabbits (7-4) doubled up the Coyotes (4-7) on the ground, outgaining USD 140-59 rushing, as Zach Zenner amassed 137 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries.
SDSU also got a solid effort from quarterback Austin Sumner, who bounced back from an early interception to go 16-of-23 for 175 yards and 2 touchdowns thru the air.
The Coyotes Keyen Lage made that interception on the Jacks first offensive possession of the game, giving USD the first big break of the game. That was followed up by a Kevin Earl to Riley Donovan 49 yard pass, deep into Jackrabbit territory.
But when the SDSU defense stiffened, USD was forced to attempt a 48-yard field goal, which was partially blocked, keeping the game scoreless.
When the Jackrabbits got the ball back, they converted on a couple of key third down plays, to move the ball into Coyote territory, but they came away with no points, when Jay Carlson missed a 51-yard field goal attempt.
Later in the quarter, Zenner started to find his stride, using a series of runs to soften up the USD defense, allowing Sumner to find Jason Schneider for a 34-yard touchdown pass, and the game's first score, 7-0.
The Coyotes were able to string together a 10 play drive the next time they had the ball, moving inside the SDSU 5, but again couldn't find the end zone, settling for a Miles Bergner 22-yard field goal to make it 7-3.
In the second quarter, SDSU took advantage of great field possession after a USD punt, starting on the Coyote 47, and six plays later they capped off the drive with a direct snap, 1-yard touchdown run from Zenner, who finished the first half with 79 yards.
But for the second straight week, SDSU missed a PAT, this time on a bad snap, and it was 13-3 with 4:48 to play in the half.
USD's longest drive of the day came next, as Kevin Earl combined with Terrance Terry for four throws of 71 yards total, and the Coyotes were in business at the SDSU 5. But on 3rd-and-1, Dallas Brown sacked Earl, and USD again had to settle for a Bergner field goal, 25 yards, to make it 13-6 at the half.
The Coyotes got the ball to start the second half, and Dyllon Knox got the DakotaDome crowd buzzing with a 41-yard kickoff return to give USD great field position. That momentum didn't last long, as the Coyotes punted the ball back moments later.
After the defense held SDSU to a three-and-out, the Coyotes mounted their first touchdown drive of the day. Two key plays helped USD reach the end zone, the first a key 3rd down conversion from Earl to Josh Vander Maten, who took advantage of a missed tackle from Winston Wright to move the chains. Moments later, a late hit from RC Kilgore gave USD another 15-yards, setting up an Earl to Terry 13-yard touchdown pass on 3rd down, and USD was an extra point from tying the game at 13.
That PAT didn't happen though, as Bergner hit the right upright and SDSU clung to a 13-12 lead in the 3rd quarter.
Later its was SDSU's turn for a big special teams play, and it came on a Je Ryan 37-yard punt return to the USD 36. The drive was kept alive by a key 3rd down conversion and a USD hands-to-the-face penalty. The seven minute drive ended on the first play of the fourth quarter with a Sumner to Schneider 5-yard touchdown pass to make it 20-12 SDSU.
After USD turned it over on downs when Vander Maten came up just inches short of the marker on a 4th down play, SDSU tried to put the game out of reach with a drive that took up more than seven minutes on the clock. What could have been a Justin Syrovatka field goal to extend the lead to 23-12 with less than five minutes left instead became a big momentum swing for USD as Knox blocked the kick, keeping it a one score game.
But after turning it over on downs again, the game finally seemed to be finished, with 3:04 to play. But, again USD got new life, when Keyen Lage forced a Zenner fumble, giving USD the ball, with a chance to tie, with 2:53 left.
That new life was extinguished exactly one play later, when Earl and Terry miscommunicated on a route, and the ball fell into the hands of Wright, who returned it 82-yards for a game clinching touchdown.
Earl was 21-of-48 passing for 325 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception. Terry had a career day with 9 catches for 115 yards and a score.
South Dakota State and South Dakota now have 50 wins each in the series, which began in 1899.
SDSU closes out the regular season at Youngstown State next Saturday, knowing the a win over the Penguins, vaults them into second place in the Missouri Valley, clinching a playoff spot for the second straight year.
USD finishes the season at North Dakota State.