In the first two years under head coach Joe Glenn, the University of South Dakota Coyotes are 0-8 on the road. After winning their home opener in the DakotaDome against UC Davis Aug. 31, the Coyotes have dropped their last two, both on the road. They now have to head to Wacomb, Ill. to face a Western Illinois team that beat them 24-17 in Vermillion last season. With all that being said, the game this Saturday also marks the start of conference play.
Senior safety Devin Taverna said a road win to start conference play would be huge.
“It’s very important. We went 1-2 through the first three games but we visualize this as a new season. We have nine, ten more games left so we have to turn this around and see what we can do to accomplish what we want to in conference play.”
The Leathernecks of Western Illinois took a seven point lead with just under eight minutes to go last year in the DakotaDome. They ended up holding on, winning 24-17.
This year they are 2-2, with both of their losses coming from FBS schools, Minnesota and UNLV. Against the Gophers (4-0) they trailed 15-12 heading into the fourth quarter before the Gophers scored 14 unanswered to win 27-12.
Taverna said the way the Leathernecks battled with a team in the Big Ten like the Gophers showed him something.
“They’re a good team. They played Minnesota really well,” Taverna said. “They have a good running back and a good offense. Last year we fought them tough, we’re ready for the challenge.”
Last week, the Coyotes traveled to Arizona to take on the No. 22 Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. The offense couldn’t get anything going and were shutout for the first three quarters. They put something together in the fourth and scored 16 straight points. Junior quarterback Josh Vander Maten passed for a season high 200 yards, and the passing game looked much improved.
Junior wide receiver Terrance Terry said he hopes the passing game can pick up right where it left off.
“We hope that momentum carries over. We got going late last week and the understanding is we have to start faster and execute better in the first half so we don’t have to make a second half comeback,” Terry said.
Terry also said the Coyotes shouldn’t be too confused vs. Western Illinois, after playing them last year and seeing their tendencies.
“They are an experienced defense. We played those guys last year. They’re a tough bunch that will scratch and claw to hold us to as few yards as they can,” Terry said. “Our hope is that our scheme can offset all the looks they give us. The key to winning will be to stay focused and know what you’re doing on offense.”
Taverna is coming off a game-high 10 tackles last week and had an interception against the Leathernecks last year. He said everyone around him has been playing good team defense, making it easier on him.
“We’ve had good preparation throughout the week, and also everyone on the defense has been doing their job,” Taverna said. “The pass rush got there and I took advantage of my opportunities.”
Leathernecks first-year quarterback Trenton Norvell has 665 yards and five touchdowns in four games this year. Taverna said the defense is going to do their homework on him and try to limit what he can do.
“We’ll watch film and see what his strengths are and hopefully get after him,” Taverna said. “He’s a good quarterback and he’s young so hopefully we change his gameplan.”
After playing Western Illinois, USD will travel home and play at the DakotaDome for the first time in a month, taking on Missouri State Oct. 5 during Dakota Days.