Fresh off winning back-to-back games in the Missouri Valley Conference, the University of South Dakota football team is full of smiles. With a 3-3 record (2-1), the Coyotes have already tripled last season’s total of one. Head Coach Joe Glenn said he is thrilled that the hard work is finally starting to pay off.
“I feel real good right now, the whole team does,” Glenn said. “It’s great to win. There’s nothing like it, and we all know that.”
Two weeks ago the team conquered its first ever MVC victory with a 17-14 win over Missouri State. They followed that up with another 17-14 win over Indiana State, the same team that beat them 45-14 a year ago.
First-year running back Trevor Bouma was the key cog for the Coyotes offense, rushing for 145 yards on 28 carries. For his efforts he was awarded the Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Week. The consistent yards coming on the ground allowed the Coyotes to chew up the clock, aiding the Coyotes to win the time of possession battle 33:47 to 26:13.
The wins were a good sign of things to come, but the team now has to hit the road and take on the University of Northern Iowa Panthers, in what according to senior safety Devin Taverna is the start of the “hardest part of their schedule.”
“We did fine in the first half. We went 3-3. Some were close losses, but we’ve clearly improved from last year,” Taverna said. “We are 2-1 in the Valley but now’s the grind of the season. We can’t afford to slack off because we’re going in to the hardest part of our schedule.”
Northern Iowa walked out of the DakotaDome with a hard earned win, beating USD 24-21. This year they have had a season of ups and downs.
They started off their season by beating FBS opponent Iowa State 28-20 and would go on to win their first four games. Then they squandered a chance to steal a game in Fargo, only to be outscored 14-0 in the fourth quarter to lose 24-23 to North Dakota State. Last week they fought back from a 14-0 deficit against Southern Illinois but lost 24-17 on overtime. Their arrow may be trending down, but Taverna said they still are an elite team.
“They are a great, physical team. David Johnson is one of the best backs we’ve ever seen,” Taverna said. “It’s going to be a good game, but we’ll have to get after them.”
Johnson, the Panthers’ senior running back, is averaging 7.3 yards per carry and has already racked up 710 yards and five touchdowns.
Glenn said the team came close to beating UNI last year and thinks this year’s team can make enough plays to get over the hump, which wasn’t the case last season.
“They are a different team from last year. They lost a lot of guys,” Glenn said. “But we learned we can play with them and (Northern Iowa) knows that too. They know they can’t bring their “B” game and beat us.”
Senior outside linebacker Tyler Starr said a key last week was the ability of the Coyotes offense to stay on the field and give the defenders a rest.
“The longer the offense is out there the better. That was huge last week,” Starr said. “That needs to happen again. It’s really nice on us to get a breather and watch them score the ball.”
Last week, Starr had to serve a two quarter suspension after a helmet-to-helmet against Missouri State Oct. 5.
“It was one of the hardest things for me to do. There’s nothing I would rather do than be out there playing football with my teammates,” Starr said.
But Starr, who leads the team with seven sacks, said now that the suspension is over with and something he doesn’t have to worry about, he can go back to pinning his ears back and attacking the quarterback.
“My skill set is pass rushing, that’s the best part of my game,” Starr said. “The more pressure I can get, the better chance we have of winning, which you can see these past few weeks. The whole defense is playing great.”
The opposing quarterback Starr and the rest of the Coyote defenders will be zoning in on will be senior Sawyer Kollmorgen, who has 10 touchdowns through the air and averages just over 200 yards per game.
Kollmorgen will have his work cut out for him, as the USD defense is No. 1 in the nation against the pass, giving up only 105 yards per game. All four starters in the defensive backfield are seniors, which according to Taverna can go a long way.
“Experience is huge at any level, whether that’s high school, college or the NFL,” Taverna said. “We’re trusting each other and trusting the scheme.”
The Oct. 19 kickoff against Northern Iowa will be at 4 p.m.