Coyotes fall to St. Cloud 22-21 in home opener

Coyotes fall to St. Cloud 22-21 in home opener The University of South Dakota dropped a hard-fought, 22-21 decision to St. Cloud State in the North Central Conference football on Sept. 15 at Howard Wood Field in Sioux Falls.

South Dakota (1-2, 0-1 in the NCC), dropped their NCC home opener as St. Cloud scored on a 39-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kent Heckendorf to Ben Nelson with 2:26 to play in the fourth quarter. It was the second straight heart-breaking defeat for the Coyotes, who have lost two straight games by a combined total of 5 points.

The see-saw game looked good for the Coyotes early when defensive back James Augustus picked off a Heckendorf pass and went 89 yards to give South Dakota a 7-0 lead. The interception return by Augustus, who had two interceptions on the evening, set a new school record, breaking the 88-yard interception return by teammate Korey Ebel last weekend.

St. Cloud pulled within 7-3 on a 26-yard field by Nick Orndorff. However, that was all the scoring in the game until the two teams lit it up in the fourth quarter. St. Cloud scored 19 points while the Coyotes put up 14 points in the decisive fourth quarter.

The Huskies, who won their second game in a row, took a 10-7 lead when Heckendorf and Nate Lehman converted on a 15-yard pass play. South Dakota answered with a nine play, 65-yard drive to take a 14-10 lead. Oakly Haines' one-yard touchdown run gave the Coyotes the lead with 7:40 to play.

After the Coyotes regained possession, South Dakota quarterback Ryan Justice lost control of the ball near his own end zone and after a scramble for the loose ball, St. Cloud's Mick Peterson fell on the ball in the end zone for the go-ahead score. However, the conversion attempt failed and St. Cloud led just 16-14. On the ensuing kickoff, senior Wade Mitchell went the distance, covering 84 yards as South Dakota retook the lead, 21-16. Then a few minutes later, Heckendorf and Nelson converted the game-winning score.

Mistakes continue to hurt the Coyotes, who lost two of four fumbles, had one interception and were penalized 11 times for a costly 114 yards.

South Dakota moved the ball down the field in the closing moments but a fumble inside the St. Cloud 30-yard line ended the Coyotes' threat.

Overall, the Coyotes had 21 rushing yards on 30 attempts and 173 passing yards for 194 yards of total offense. Justice completed 14 of 31 passes for 173 yards, including a 41-yard pitch and catch to Chris Mikkelsen. Michael Williams led the Coyotes with 40 yards on 20 rushes. Tight end Dustin Sagedahl had six receptions for 63 yards while Mikkelsen had five catches for 82 yards.

Defensively, the Coyotes had 20 tackles for loss and 13 sacks on the night. Both Shawn Kenworthy and Bill Gassen had five tackles for loss while Kenworthy also had four sacks to go with his seven tackles. Mark Blackburn led the Coyotes' defense with 12 tackles, while recording three tackles for loss and three sacks. Aaron Dietrich had 11 tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks.

St. Cloud had just 85 rushing yards on 42 carries but had 309 passing yards for 394 yards in total offense. Heckendorf completed 23 passes in 49 attempts for 309 passing yards, two interceptions, and two touchdowns. Nate Lehman caught seven passes for 75 yards while Bill Stallings led the Huskies' ground attack with 37 yards on 13 carries.

USD will host Nebraska-Omaha on Saturday. Kickoff for the North Central Conference encounter begins at 7 p.m. at Howard Wood Field in Sioux Falls.

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