Coyotes roll past Morningside 30-7

Coyotes roll past Morningside 30-7 For the third consecutive game, The University of South Dakota Coyotes' defense recorded a first-half shutout as they rolled to a 30-7 North Central Conference football win over the Morningside Mustangs at Robert Stadium.

The Coyotes improved their record to 6-3 and 4-3 in the North Central Conference. USD and Augustana, who defeated North Dakota 35-23, are tied for fourth in the NCC.

In the last five games, the Coyotes, ranked sixth in the Midwest region, have allowed just 44 points. This is the Coyotes' second straight victory and fourth in the last five.

With the 30-7 win, the Coyotes have a 15-10 win over Augustana, a 37-0 shutout of St. Cloud State, a 21-7 loss to UNO and a 27-6 win over Northern Colorado during that span.

"It's great to get a victory," said Coyote head coach John Austin, who now is 10-10 at USD. His NCC record has improved to 7-9 in his two seasons at USD. "We were pleased with the players' mental preparation for the game.

"We played well at the start, jumping ahead 17-0," he continued. "After losing a little of the momentum late in the first half, we immediately re-established ourselves early in the second half."

While the offense had a solid day with 345 total yards, the story of this game was the stingy Coyote defense that allowed just 172 total yards and held the Mustangs to -9 yards rushing on 36 attempts.

USD recorded a season-high seven sacks, two of them from Verick Gray, a senior linebacker who transferred to USD from Southwest Missouri State this fall. Gray also recorded 15 tackles, including nine solo stops with three tackles for a loss (for 25 yards).

The Coyotes forced five fumbles, recovering three, and had an interception to increase their turnover margin to a +16 this season. The turnover margin ranks first in the NCC.

"He (Gray) had a lot of big hits and stepped up to do things. He had an outstanding game," Austin said.

Overall, the Coyotes had seven sacks and continually applied pressure on the Morningside quarterbacks. USD recovered three fumbles and senior cornerback Kaseem Gaines had his third interception of the season. Josh Stamer had a tackle for a loss, a fumble recovery and a sack, giving him 17 tackles for a loss this season with six sacks.

The Coyotes opened the scoring on a 32-yard field goal from Adam Hicks at 7:27 in the first quarter. South Dakota moved the ball 45 yards on 10 plays, keyed by a 15-yard run by Dusty Stamer, who had 20 yards rushing during the drive. On the next possession by Morningside, Coyote defensive tackle Bill Gassen forced a fumble, which was recovered by Lee Bunge at the Mustangs' 20 yard-line.

On the very next play, sophomore quarterback Ryan Justice hooked up with freshman wide receiver Charles Johnson for a 20-yard touchdown reception. Then, on the ensuing Morningside possession, Gaines intercepted a third-down pass, returning it to the Mustangs' 35-yard line.

The Coyotes moved the final 35 yards in five plays as junior Eric Tarasewicz ran 15 yards for a touchdown to put the Coyotes up 17-0 at 2:26 of the first quarter.

USD carried that margin into the third quarter when they took the second half kickoff and moved the ball 79 yards in seven plays to increase their advantage to 24-0. Dusty Stamer scored from five yards out with 13:12 to play in the third quarter. The key play on the drive was Justice's 41-yard pass to Johnson.

After the Coyotes were unable to take advantage of a fumble recovery by Gassen at the Morningside 49-yard line, the Mustangs moved in for their only score of the game. But that score was aided by a roughing-the-kicker penalty against USD when Morningside was punting from their own 27-yard line.

The Mustangs moved the ball 85 yards on 14 plays and Brad Sitzman took the ball into the end zone from three yards out with 3:22 to play in the third quarter.

The Coyotes added their final tally when Justice threw his second touchdown pass of the game with 7:20 to play in the game. Tim Cook caught the four-yard toss from Justice. Dusty Stamer, who rushed for 126 yards, had runs of 17, 15, 8, and six yards on the drive as the Coyotes moved 52 yards in seven plays.

Tarasewicz had 59 yards rushing on seven carries and a touchdown. Overall, USD had 203 yards rushing on 44 carries. Justice completed 12-of-24 passes for 144 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Johnson caught five passes for 79 yards and a touchdown.

The Mustangs received 49 yards rushing and a touchdown from Brad Sitzman. Quarterback Jake Parten, who replaced starting quarterback J.J. White after one play in the game, completed 17-of-37 passes for 181 yards and one interception.

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