Backed by the Dakota Days home crowd, USD (2-3, 1-0 MVFC) secured their second-consecutive victory in the conference opener, shutting out Indiana State (2-3, 0-1 MVFC) 38-0 in the DakotaDome Saturday.
“I thought we played with really good emotion, really good enthusiasm,” head coach Bob Nielson said. “The crowd obviously was great today, packed in there with a shoehorn. Hopefully people thought that they saw a good show because I think they did.”
Senior quarterback Austin Simmons rushed for a career-high 138 yards as one of the Coyote’s two 100-yard rushers on the day.
“I think we did a lot of things right,” Simmons said. “I think we just really executed what we game planned about as well as we could of or have all season, so that was really nice to see.”
The other lead rusher, junior running back Kai Henry, tallied 101 yards rushing, including a 42-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to extend the Coyote lead to 14 points.
“We talked about going into the year as a better-balanced offensive football team,” Nielson said. “We had 300 yards rushing today, and that’s a lot of rushing yards in college football. That means our o-line was blocking well. We had big plays today which means our perimeter guys were doing a good job of blocking downfield.”
The Coyotes came out immediately looking to run the football, handing it off eight out of 10 plays on the opening drive of the game. The end result was Simmons hitting pay dirt on a three-yard rush to cap off a 75-yard drive.
Simmons added a second rushing touchdown in the second quarter, as he scampered for 37 yards to complete a quick three-play scoring drive. Junior kicker Mason Lorber split the uprights on a 44-yard field goal to extend the Coyote lead to 24-0 heading into the half.
USD was also able to find success through the air, as Simmons found redshirt-sophomore Drew Greenhaw for a 29-yard scoring strike with just under three minutes remaining in the third quarter. Simmons finished the game with 210 yards on 15-25 passing.
Greenhaw tallied 63 yards on four receptions to complement his touchdown, while junior Caleb Vander Esch led the team with 87 receiving yards. Redshirt-sophomore Kody Case left the game in the first half after taking a hit, however, Nielson said he believes Kase is okay and was held out of the game as a precaution.
Simmons rushed for the longest of his three touchdowns to close out the third quarter: a 44-yarder that extended the lead to 38. The Coyotes used the fourth quarter to dig into the youthful part of their depth chart. Sophomore running back Lincoln Gibbs highlighted this with a 33-yard rush, the first and longest run of his career.
“That was a huge step for some of our younger guys who haven’t got a lot of snaps yet this year,” senior defensive end Darin Greenfield said. “To get that experience, to get that under their belt is huge.”
The defense, which secured its first shutout of the season two weeks after holding Northern Colorado to six points, held Indiana State to just 40 yards on 33 carries. The Sycamores had previously averaged 216 yards rushing per game, positioning them at 20th in the nation.
“Obviously with a new coordinator and the new scheme it’s going to take time,” Greenfield said. “We practiced it in the spring and fall camp but there’s nothing like playing a game. So, after everyone got that experience under their belt and got that feel for how the defense works, I think we’re going to do some great things.”
Struggling in the run game, the Sycamores relied on backup redshirt-sophomore quarterback Gunnar See, who totaled 239 yards and one interception on 23-of-38 passing.
“We gave an inexperienced quarterback multiple looks. We were able to put some pressure on the quarterback,” Nielson said. “What they really wanted to do was try and control the football with the run and our front seven guys played really well today… those guys were in the backfield all day.”
Junior linebacker Jack Cochrane led the team with 11 total tackles. Greenfield tallied seven tackles, one sack, three tackles for loss, and one forced fumble. Senior free safety Mike Johnson secured the Coyote’s lone interception and also recovered Greenfield’s forced fumble.
“Really proud of our guys,” Nielson said. “They played well in all three phases of the game today, which is something we’ve been stressing; to try to put a full game performance together.”
USD will attempt to reach .500 as they travel to Springfield, Missouri to take on Missouri State on Saturday, Oct. 12 at 2 p.m.