The Coyote football team walked away with a win during the Dakota Days game against the Youngstown State Penguins in the Dakota Dome Saturday afternoon with a crowd of more than 10,000.
The final score of 31-28 was reached after a field goal by senior kicker Ryan Weese with just seven seconds left in the fourth quarter.
This is what ultimately led the team the victory, said junior kicker Ethan James.
“Our strengths were that we stuck together the whole time, relied on Ryan Weese at the end there — that was a great kick by him,” James said.
USD scored the first touchdown in the first quarter with 9:38 left on the clock. Though by the fourth quarter the Penguins caught up to the Coyotes with 3:49 on the clock, USD stepped it up with the 29-yard field goal kick, ending the score 31-28.
Junior Shamar Jackson had the most impressive play of the game — he scored a 71-yard touchdown after a pass from senior quarterback Chris Streveler. Jackson also had 229 yards in the game, setting a new record for himself and also surpassing the previous 205-yard record from Dwight Duncombe in 1972, according to GoYotes.
“He was actually supposed to run another route and just side-adjusted the route when the pressure came. Chris (Streveler) made the same green and turned that into a 71-yard touchdown play,” said head coach Bob Nielson at a press conference. “He’s a great young man — he’s one of those guys that never says anything, just practices really hard, does everything the right way.”
Freshman Kai Henry scored the second touchdown for the Coyotes at 8:04 in the second quarter, senior Brandt Van Roekel scored at 2:00 in the second, Jackson at 12:48 in the third and finally ending with Weese’s field goal in the final seconds of the final quarter.
James said the team was consistent throughout the entire game.
“We knew Youngstown was going to be a good team, but that wasn’t an upset,” he said. “It was just a great football game all-around.”
Senior tight end Josh Hale said the team pulled through to defeat Youngstown.
“I thought it ended up just how we thought it was going to be — we knew it was going to be a dog fight all the way to the end of the game, and fortunately we were able to come out with one last drive and hit it in the uprights,” he said.
Though No. 3 Youngstown State had good defense, said Nielson, the No. 6 Coyotes had a solid drive throughout the second quarter.
“Their defense was really good — they showed that through the course of the year that they can choke teams out,” Nielson said. “The thing that happened the second half, quite frankly, is we made the big play and then we had two or three drives in a row where I thought we moved the ball OK, but we got ourselves off schedule.”
Nielson said though the team lost their rhythm for a while, they eventually picked it back up.
“One of the things I’m most proud of was our guys, even though we went through that adversity, we came out at the end, got punted down in the oval there, great defensive stop and a really nice offensive drive,” he said.
The field goal at the end was something the team always prepares for.
“It’s the last thing we do in practice every day — we do field goals for the game and surround the kicker with everybody in our program,” Nielson said. “They put as much pressure on him as possible and you have to fall in a good spot there — he knew where he wanted it, well within his range and he stepped up there and confidently kicked it in between the uprights. Obviously you kind of hope your kicker makes that kind of field goal.”
Hale said speed and defense were their greatest strengths.
“We had such a fast tempo. Our defense has been playing out of our minds,” he said. “Sometimes the communication from signals in the field gets a little jumbled sometimes, but other than that, it’s a pretty well-oiled machine we’ve got going here.”
Nielson said the D-Days crowd helped the team push through and feel confident.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” he said. “It’s hard not to feel the energy that the Dome has when it’s full like that. We have people supporting us, making it tough on them (Youngstown) and a couple other elements in the media. Let’s do it again next week.”