Saturday will mark first time in 35 days that the University of South Dakota football team will be playing a game in the DakotaDome. The Coyotes will be taking on the Missouri St. Bears in search of their first conference win under head coach Joe Glenn.
After dropping their last three games on the road, Glenn said there’s no better time to be back home playing on Dakota-Days.
“D-Days is always such an exciting time. Alumni, classmates and people from the town all come to the game, so I want to make sure we give them something to cheer about,” Glenn said. “We need to get a win here to get some momentum and feed off that momentum. This is a perfect time for that.”
The Coyotes had their most forgettable game of the season last year versus the Bears, as they blew a 14 point lead in the fourth quarter losing 27-24.
Senior outside linebacker Tyler Starr said the team is trying to forget about that loss, but at the same time can use what they remember last year to their advantage.
“We had a tough loss versus them last year,” Starr said. “We know they have an athletic offense with a lot of talent at the skill positions, so we’ll have to scheme against that if we want to win.”
USD has a history with Bears starting quarterback Kierra Harris. The junior made his first career start versus the Coyotes last year and has shown he can be effective on the ground and through the air, as seen by his six rushing and four passing touchdowns.
Senior safety Devin Taverna said the defense will spend a lot of time game planning for the dual-threat quarterback.
“He’s an athletic quarterback. His first start of his career was versus us last year and now he has over a year on his belt,” Taverna said. “We want to make sure he doesn’t feel comfortable back there because we’ll have to limit him for us to be successful.”
Combined, the teams are 2-7 on the season. The Bears got their first victory of the season by defeating conference foe Illinois State 37-10 last week. Despite what their record says, Taverna said the Bears have a very strong team, and beating them won’t be easy.
“We both need a win as bad as bad as the next person, so we know both teams will be ready to win,” Taverna said. “They are a very good team, but their record doesn’t really show it. Their losses have been by a possession or less, but we’re at home and we play good at home. We’re going to have a good week of practice and see what happens.”
USD dropped its opening game in the Missouri Valley 24-10 when it lost to Western Illinois last Saturday. The Coyotes failed to get any good drives going and struggled mightily through the air. With the Coyotes trailing 17-3 at the end of the third, Glenn pulled junior quarterback Josh Vander Maten in favor of sophomore Kevin Earl. Glenn said Earl gave the offense a little spark.
“Kevin (Earl) came in and did the best he could, but it wasn’t perfect. He did lead us to a touchdown, and I do give him credit for that,”Glenn said. (Vander Maten) had a tough day, the toughest I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”
Glenn said competition will be good for both guys, but no decision has been made.
“We’re going to compete this week and let the chips fall,” Glenn said.
Kickoff versus the Bears will be at 2 p.m. in the DakotaDome.