The University of South Dakota football team is a year removed from their first season of being a Division-I post-season eligible program.
The Coyotes finished the 2012 campaign with a 1-10 record, picking up their lone victory against Colgate in their home opener Sept. 8, 2012.
While their 2012 season was not full of successes, junior quarterback Josh Vander Maten feels this year’s team is a closer tied unit than a year ago.
“We really took a ‘band of brothers’ saying to heart,” he said. “We are all very close and the team camaraderie is amazing.”
With one season of D-I football under their belts, the Coyotes will continue to see a new level of competition with games against teams like Kansas Sept. 7 and back-to-back FCS champions North Dakota State Nov. 23.
Despite several big match-ups this season, head coach Joe Glenn said the team has improved in the past year.
“We are bigger, faster, stronger and tougher from last year,” Glenn said. “These kids have paid a price like no team I have been around, something good has got to happen. They need to be rewarded on the scoreboard.”
The Coyotes have gone 44 practices without a game, with 15 in the spring and 29 in the fall.
“We need a game, bring out the crowd, the band, all the cheerleaders, and have an actual game,” Glenn said. “We need a measuring stick to see where we are at right now.”
With fall camp ending, the Coyotes are gearing their focus on its first opponent and former Great West Conference foe, the UC Davis Aggies.
“It finally feels good to be in some sort of flow,” Vander Maten said. “Fall camp can be kind of a grind, we’re all really excited (for the game).”
The Aggies finished their 2012 season with a 4-7 record in their first season in the Big Sky Conference.
UC Davis enters this season with a new coach. Ron Gould, who was an associate head coach/running backs coach at California will run the sidelines for the Aggies. Gould was also a defensive back at the University of Oregon in the late 1980s.
“(UC Davis) has a bunch of athletes on both sides of the ball,” Vander Maten said. “They also have a lot of guys coming back this year.”
UC Davis returns 18 starters from a season ago and is led by senior quarterback Randy Wright, who passed for 2,410 yards and threw 13 touchdowns in 2012.
The Coyotes have experienced the injury bug at the running back position as fall camp has winded down.
The Coyotes potential starting running back senior Jasper Sanders went down with an arm injury at the beginning of fall camp.
“We have lost some good backs so far,” Glenn said. “But we have great depth. Trevor Boumma and Jordan Roberts or ‘The Bruise Brothers’ as I like to call them will take most of the load at the back position. They both play with a lot of heart.”
Vander Maten, who has spent a lot of time during the offseason on improving his game, feels that their first home game will be very close.
“I’m expecting a very close game,” he said. “They’re very good and we know it will go down to the wire.”
Glenn said his team needs to own the line of scrimmage and avoid coughing the ball up to the opponent in order to be victorious.
“Turnovers are going to be huge,” Glenn said. “Whoever is cleaner in special teams and whoever runs the ball better will probably win this game.”
The Coyotes will kick off their season at 2 p.m. Aug. 31 at the DakotaDome.
“Getting a victory Saturday will mean we will finally get to see a smile on our guys’ faces for 24 hours,” said Glenn.