Interceptions are key to Coyote victory Senior cornerback Russel Burwell had two interceptions that set up a field goal and the winning touchdown as South Dakota, 1-0, rallied to post a season opening 17-13 victory past Missouri Western Thursday night, Aug. 31.
Burwell returned an interception 19 yards late in the third quarter and on the first play from scrimmage Mike Weister rambled 25 yards for a touchdown with 6.7 seconds left in the third quarter to account for the margin of victory.
Burwell's first interception helped give the Coyotes a 3-0 lead on a 26-yard field goal by Adam Hicks with 47 seconds left in the first quarter. South Dakota senior defensive end Lee Bunge deflected a pass from Missouri Western quarterback Kasey Waterman that landed in the hands of teammate Burwell at the Griffons' 10 yardline. The Coyotes' offense failed to move the ball and settled for Hicks' field goal. Earlier, Hicks missed a 36-yard field goal with 8:45 left in the first quarter.
With the temperature hitting 100 degrees at kickoff, both teams had a sluggish first half as turnovers led to a 3-3 deadlock. For the Coyotes, Justice had a difficult first half, mishandling the snap from center Miguel Regalado five times. But the sophomore quarterback, who set a passing record with 1,060 yards in 1999, was a new man in the second half. He engineered two touchdown drives, while completing 13 passes for 156 yards. He was 16-30 for 196 yards for the game.
The former transfer from the University of Iowa preserved the Coyote victory by hitting sophomore Kary Gantt with a 25-yard pass on third down to the Missouri Western 32 yardline with 1:07 left in the game.
Gantt finished with a game-high six receptions for 89 yards, while rushing for a game-high 70 yards in 17 carries. Both totals are career highs for the sophomore running back. South Dakota finished with 334 yards total offense.
Missouri Western tied the game at 3-3 when sophomore linebacker Chris Eads recovered a fumble from Justice at the Coyote nine yardline with 12:45 left in the second quarter. That set up a 26-yard field goal by Kevin Toms with 11:45 left in the second quarter. Missouri Western took the second half kickoff and drove 66 yards to break the 3-3 deadlock when Toms hit a 22-yard field goal with 11:05 left in the third quarter.
Stamer's 43-yard touchdown burst with 5:36 left in the third quarter gave the Coyotes a 10-6 as he broke away from five defenders and sprinted down the left sideline to cap a seven-play, 76-yard scoring march. Two plays earlier, Justice delivered a key 10-yard third-down pass to Gantt, which kept the drive alive.
Missouri Western responded to regain the lead at 13-10 when Waterman found Jerris Evans open in the Coyote secondary for a 54-yard scoring pass with 3:21 left in the third period to climax a five-play, 66-yard march.
Coyote senior Filip Filipovic averaged 44.4 yards on seven punts, including a career long 61-yard punt in the first quarter. He came back to tie his previous career best with a 56-yarder on his next punt.
South Dakota will open its home season, playing host to Truman State Saturday, Sept. 9 in the DakotaDome. Game time is 7 p.m.