The Coyotes fell to their stiffest competition of the season Saturday night, losing to Oklahoma 70-14 at Gaylord Family Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma.
After a different FCS school backed out of their scheduled meeting with the Sooners, USD stepped in, agreeing to play in January 2017. The university will receive $575,000 for the game according to Athletic Director David Herbster.
Coming into the game ranked No. 4 in FBS Division-I, Oklahoma dominated from the start, amassing 733 yards of total offense. 10 different Sooners found the endzone.
“It’s obvious when [Oklahoma] moves the ball as well as they did last week against Houston how talented of a football team they are offensively,” head coach Bob Nielson said after the game. “I’m not sure there’s going to be a lot of teams that do a very good job defending them.”
After an opening-drive three-and-out, Heisman hopeful Jalen Hurts opened the scoring with a three-yard pass to CeeDee Lamb, capping off a seven-play 80-yard drive for the Sooners.
USD was unable to drive in the first half, forcing the defense to stay on the field against Oklahoma’s high-octane offense. Oklahoma held possession for 33:33 to USD’s 26:27.
Most of the Sooners’ starters saw only a half of action. Hurts finished with 259 passing yards and three touchdowns while completing 14 of 18 pass attempts. He added 47 yards on the ground.
Lamb totaled 144 yards and a touchdown on six receptions in the first half, almost half coming from a 71-yard drive the Sooners used to start the game. He was one of six Sooners to catch a touchdown pass.
The third quarter saw the most action of the game as both teams traded six touchdowns.
Senior quarterback Austin Simmons opened the second half by throwing a pick-six to sophomore defensive back Brendan Radley-Hiles less than a minute into the third quarter, extending the Sooner’s lead to 35-0.
Following two more Sooner touchdown drives, USD finally hit pay dirt. Simmons hit redshirt-sophomore Kody Case, who made a diving catch for their first touchdown of the day. The play cut Oklahoma’s lead to 49-7.
The Coyotes’ second score came in the final seconds of the third quarter. Initially ruled out of bounds, junior Caleb Vander Esch’s 27-yard reception on the sideline was ruled good after review, making the score 56-14.
Once Hurts’s day ended, both of his backups saw the found playing time. Redshirt-freshman Tanner Mordecai tallied two touchdowns and 114 yards on six completions. True freshman Spencer Rattler scored the final points of the contest, tossing a nine-yard strike to Trejan Bridges with 5:42 remaining.
Sooner running backs Trey Sermon, Kennedy Brooks, and Rhamondre Stevenson all contributed a touchdown on the ground. Sermon totaled 56 yards on nine carries while Brooks added 69 yards on six carries. Stevenson led the group with 104 yards on six rushes, including a 75-yard touchdown run 17 seconds after Case’s score.
Simmons completed 73 percent of his passes, going 25-34 for the night. He contributed 244 yards and two scores while throwing two interceptions and taking two sacks. Case led the receiver group with 68 yards to complement his touchdown catch.
Sophomore running back Ben Klett rushed for 29 yards on eight carries to lead the team. Simmons added 28 net rushing yards.
Defensively, junior defensive back Elijah Reed led the charge with 12 total tackles, eight of which were solo. Senior defensive end Darin Greenfield contributed the team’s lone sack.
Though bright spots were few and far between for USD, Nielson highlighted some for the defense and offense following the game.
“In the first half I thought [the defense] battled hard, created some third down situations where we had chances to end drives,” Nielson said. “I was proud of the way our offense came back. I think we got some sync going in the second half.”
Self-inflicted wounds severely hindered USD’s offense, according to Case.
“We moved the ball well I thought,” Case said. “We got it into their side of the field, but we just couldn’t finish out drives like we wanted to.”
Lack of execution infected the defense as well.
“At the end of the day it’s about execution, that’s what it comes down to,” junior linebacker Jack Cochrane said. “Normally when you make mistakes you can save yourself sometimes but when you’re playing really good teams they’re going to highlight those mistakes and make plays off of them.”
Cochrane said despite the score, the defense improved from their showdown with Montana a week ago.
“Some mistakes were made against Montana that didn’t happen tonight,” Cochrane said. “The more games you play, you start to knock out more of those weaknesses. Hopefully, by next week we’re looking really sharp.”
The Coyotes look to earn their first win of the season as they welcome Houston Baptist to the DakotaDome Saturday at 2 p.m.
“When you get a chance to play the best you get to gauge yourself,” Nielson said. “After you play the best and get a feel of where you’re at you have to focus on trying to beat the rest.”