USD football head coach Bob Nielson earned his 200th win in a 31-24 victory against Southern Illinois Saturday night, becoming one of 17 active head coaches to do so.
Nielson and the Coyotes traveled to Carbondale, Ill. Saturday to face the Salukis in the opening week of Missouri Valley Football Conference play.
In the first half, SIU quarterback Sam Straub twice connected with junior Nigel Kilby in the end zone, but a rushing touchdown from USD sophomore running back Kai Henry and a field goal from sophomore kicker Mason Lorber kept the Coyotes within seven at halftime.
Down 17-10 entering the second half, the arm of junior quarterback Austin Simmons scored 21 unanswered points in the third quarter. Simmons found junior receiver Randy Baker with nine-yard and 45-yard touchdowns, and then a wide-open senior Dakarai Allen with an 89-yard touchdown pass, the longest of completion of his career, putting the Coyotes up 31-17.
With a minute remaining in the game, SIU scored a touchdown, but they couldn’t find another opportunity before time expired, and USD left Illinois with a 2-2 record and their first conference win of the season.
Simmons threw for 333 yards and 3 touchdowns on 18/35 passing. Allen racked 183 yards and a touchdown on six receptions. Baker also caught six passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns. After rushing for only 28 yards against Weber State on Sept. 15, the Coyotes totaled 111 rushing yards, 67 of that courtesy of sophomore running back Ben Klett on 11 attempts.
Senior linebacker Alex Gray led the Coyote defense with 14 tackles and an interception, and his twin Andrew Gray followed with nine tackles. Sophomore cornerback Mark Collins Jr. also intercepted his first pass of the season.
“It wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done,” Simmons said after the game.
USD hosts Missouri State Saturday, Oct. 6 at 2 p.m. for the annual Dakota Days homecoming game. The Bears are 3-1 on the season, fresh off a 24-21 upset win over No. 9 Illinois State.