It is fitting that the University of South Dakota football team’s last non-conference game was against Big Ten opponent Northwestern.
In fact, I would go as far to say it was beneficial.
Being one of the highest caliber foes the Coyotes would face all season, a chance for victory was seemingly slim. However, there were opportunities to be had by Joe Glenn and Co.
Northwestern’s highly attuned Division I offense and defense hyper-exposed each of the Coyotes weakness’ on either side of the ball, now allowing the Coyotes to analyze themselves for what they are and make the necessary adjustments accordingly.
They could start with their run defense, the Coyotes allowed an astonishing 300 yards on the ground to Northwestern, including three touchdowns from junior running back Mark Venric.
Defending the run isn’t something the Coyotes can just ignore, with four teams currently averaging 200 yards or more on the ground in the Missouri Valley.
South Dakota is dead last in rush yards allowed in the Missouri Valley with 829 yards allowed over the course of three games..
Along with exposing weaknesses, last week’s game against Northwestern solidified some strengths, the biggest of them being pass defense. Allowing just 131 yards through the air against any Big Ten caliber team is really something else.
However, in terms of conference opponents, the pass game is not something of utmost importance. What USD needs to focus on in upcoming weeks will be the ground game, both defensively and offensively.
Senior running back Marcus Sims has shown glimpses of greatest in the past year of play. His potential could open things up on offense, if it is utilized correctly. A more consistent pass game could open the playbook up for offensive coordinator Wesley Beschorne.
While success during their first season in Division I is a long shot, I believe the pieces are all there for the Coyotes. The only thing to do now is to watch and see if all those pieces can fall into place.
From here on out, the Coyotes’ schedule does not get any easier. Success will not be handed to them this season, their best chance will be to learn from their mistakes each week while focusing on their strengths and avoid allowing teams to isolate their weaknesses.