The Coyotes fell to the Illinois State Redbirds 20-14 Saturday inside the DakotaDome, marking their first loss in the Dome this season.
“Definitely not pleased with the outcome, but very pleased with the way our guys fought until the end,” head coach Bob Nielson said. “We’re dealing with a lot of injuries right now, which is not a good thing, but we still have to find a way to make plays.”
The Coyote offense had just three possessions before quarterback Carson Camp took a hit that forced him to exit the game with an injury. Camp did not return to the competition, and freshman Cole Stenstrom stepped in to lead the offense. Stenstrom completed 11 of 24 pass attempts and gained 45 yards on six rushes.
Nielson said the offensive scheme did not change much when Stenstrom took over.
“We used just a little bit more quarterback run, maybe could’ve done that a little more even,” Nielsen said. “Not really a lot (changed), those guys practice the same way Carson does. Cole (Stenstrom) did some good things—he made some plays and certainly will be better as a result of his experience.”
Illinois State jumped to a 10-0 lead over the Coyotes when running back Cole Mueller broke free for a 69-yard touchdown in the second quarter. It was the only touchdown the Redbirds would score against the USD defense.
“We played alright, and we did our job for a lot of the game,” senior linebacker Jack Cochrane said. “One big run, that’s really uncharacteristic of us. I’m just proud of the way we competed though, both sides of the ball.”
The USD offense scored two touchdowns, consisting of a touchdown pass from Stenstrom to tight end Brett Samson in the second quarter along with a five-yard rushing touchdown from running back Travis Theis with 11:28 left in the fourth quarter to make it 20-14 and keep the Coyotes in the game.
On Illinois State’s drive following Theis’ touchdown run, a sack from defensive lineman Nick Gaes on third down at the USD 42 would force the Redbirds to punt and give the Coyotes the ball back with 6:49 left to play.
The Coyotes drove down the field, but were faced with a fourth and goal from the nine-yard line with under three minutes to go. The offense came away empty-handed after Stenstrom was forced to roll out and was stopped short of the goal line.
The defense forced a quick three and out from Illinois State following the turnover on downs, but Stenstrom’s first pass would be picked off on the offense’s ensuing drive, solidifying a win on the road for the Redbirds.
“It was a tough way to lose when you have an opportunity to put the ball in the endzone there at the end of the game and you don’t get it done,” Nielson said. “That’s a really good defensive football team, and we knew it was going to be tough. As we look ahead into this week, we’ll make sure our game plan represents the skills that those guys have and can execute at a really high level.”
USD will be at Western Illinois Nov. 6.