USD breaks five-game skid with 31-19 win

USD breaks five-game skid with 31-19 win It was "Home Sweet Dome" for the South Dakota Coyotes (2-5, 1-4 in the NCC), who broke a five-game losing streak with a 31-19 North Central Conference victory over Northern Colorado on Dakota Days at the DakotaDome Oct. 13.

Being back home seemed to be the right tonic for the Coyotes, who earned the victory with timely offensive play balanced with a pressure defense that forced the Bears into four turnovers (fumbles), while recording a pair of quarterback sacks and their fourth defensive touchdown of the season.

The Coyotes jumped to a 7-0 lead by scoring on their first offensive play of the game as Ryan Justice connected on a 37-yard pass to freshman Chris Mikkelsen.

The Bears answered the Coyotes' touchdown with a 53-yard touchdown run by Tyler Hawkins in the first quarter and cut the lead to 7-6. However, Chad Harter's kick failed as South Dakota retained the lead. Harter continued to have trouble throughout the day. He missed two extra points and a 21-yard field goal and also mishandled a punt that led to a South Dakota touchdown.

Later in the first quarter, South Dakota upped their margin to 10-6 when Filip Filipovic converted on a 29-yard field goal. On the scoring drive, the Coyotes moved the ball 68 yards on 13 plays.

A few minutes later, senior defensive back Wade Mitchell picked up a Bears' fumble and took it 70 yards as the Coyotes gained a 17-6 first quarter lead.

The defenses dominated most of the second quarter, until UNC fought back into the game with a nine play, 65-yard drive that was culminated by a 22-yard field goal by Harter. The field goal was the only scoring of the second quarter as South Dakota led 17-9 at halftime.

On the Coyotes' first possession of the third quarter, it was a 38-yard pitch and catch from Justice to Mikkelsen that set up the Coyotes in scoring position. With a first and 10 from the Bears' 14-yard line, Justice threw his second touchdown of the game, finding a wide-open Dustin Sagedahl for the 14-yard touchdown pass. With Filipovic's kick, the Coyotes led 24-9.

With 6:42 to play in the third quarter, UNC quarterback Jon Boyer connected with Vincent Jackson on a 61-yard touchdown strike. The Bears' kick failed and the Coyotes maintained a 24-15 lead.

In the fourth quarter, the Bears' special teams forced the Coyotes' into difficult field position and both times, recorded a safety when the Coyotes were unable to handle punts in the end zone. On both occasions, Coyote punter Filipovic was able to push the ball out of the end zone as UNC drew within 24-19 with 3:41 to play.

The Coyotes were able to hold off the Bears as the defense stopped UNC. After the kick, the Bears were unable to move the ball as Coyote linebacker Mark Blackburn recorded his second sack of the game and the Bears threw two incomplete passes, forcing a punt with 2:40 to play.

On the fourth down play, Harter was unable to control the snap and the Coyotes tackled him for an 18-yard loss. Two plays later, Justice completed his third touchdown pass of the game, this time finding junior Freddie Mitchell on a 16-yard scoring play.

South Dakota had 280 yards of total offense, including 216 passing yards. The Coyotes totaled just 64 yards on 34 rushes while the Bears had just 86 yards on 36 rushes. South Dakota was led by senior running back Eric Tarasewicz who had 65 yards on 16 carries. Hawkins led UNC with 67 yards on seven carries and Mike Van Manen had 56 yards on 21 carries.

Justice completed 13 of 28 passes for 216 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. UNC's Boyer also had decent numbers with 21 completions on 35 attempts for 260 yards and one touchdown.

Defensively, the Coyotes were led by junior safety Scott Lilland who had 13 tackles, two fumble recoveries and a pass break-up. Junior defensive tackle Aaron Dietrich had seven tackles, including four for loss (-15) and a quarterback sack. Blackburn had five tackles, including two for loss (-20), one fumble recovery and two quarterback sacks.

UNC was led defensively by Cabel Rohloff who had 10 tackles, one for loss (-10), one fumble recovery and a blocked field goal attempt.

After six games away from the friendly confines of the Dome, the Coyotes welcomed the opportunity to be back "home." Due to a delay in the replacement of the roof, this was the Coyotes' first game at the DakotaDome since a 24-3 win over Minnesota State, Mankato last November.

South Dakota played this year's earlier home games at Yankton and Sioux Falls, recording a 1-2 mark. Along with three games on the road, the Coyotes were basically on the road for their first six games of the season.

"It has been a long couple of months but it was great to be back in the Dome. We are excited to be back home and this crowd was for responsive and helpful for our team," South Dakota head coach John Austin said at a post-game press conference.

The Coyotes do not play this week and will host South Dakota State at the DakotaDome on Oct. 27. Game time is 6:30 p.m.

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