After over nine years, the rivalry between the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University returned in a much different state in which it was left.
Three quick scores by the Jackrabbits, including a fumble recovery for a touchdown on the Coyotes first drive, shifted all momentum towards the SDSU sideline, giving them a 21-0 lead, nearly deciding matters between the two in-state rivals.
Sophomore Josh Vander Maten said the Jackrabbits’ swift scoring made it hard for the team to gain back any momentum.
“It was a shock to the gut right away,” Vander Maten said. “We had too many mistakes right away, and it took the air right out of us. We can’t start games like that and expect to win.”
The Coyotes defense held SDSU to just three points over the next two quarters, but after coming away empty handed in the red zone three separate times, the Coyotes were seemingly out of opportunities.
However, senior Mike Garvey returned a blocked punt for a 27-yard touchdown for the Coyotes lone score with 7:41 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Any remaining chance of a comeback was erased quickly after SDSU running back Zack Zenner drove the Jackrabbits down the field for a one-yard touchdown with five minutes remaining in the game.
Head coach Joe Glenn said his team’s final game mirrored the Coyotes 2012 season.
“Today was little bit of the story of our season,” Glenn said. “Three really good shots right away pretty much put it away. You have to give credit to a good defense; they bent but never broke.”
The Jackrabbits held the Coyotes to just 22 yards rushing, forcing the Coytoes to throw the ball a season high 41 times.
Vander Maten, who was benched on the final two possessions, threw for 219 yards, and senior Will Powell caught eight passes for 118 yards in his final game in a Coyotes uniform.
A touchdown could have been added to both Vander Maten and Powell’s stats, while changing the outlook of the entire game, after Vander Maten overthrew a wide-open Powell deep down the middle on the Coyotes first play of the game.
“That play could have changed the whole aspect of the game,” Powell said. “The wind took it away from (Vander Maten), if we connected on that play it would have been a whole different ball game.”
After a 1-10 season, the Coyotes enter the offseason with many holes in need of filling. Vander Maten and Glenn both agree; there is work to be done.
“We can’t keep going like this,” Glenn said. “I am confident after having the baptism we had this year, it will teach us how much harder we have to work, and how far ahead the rest of the conference is.”