‘Gregory connection’ key to USD win

'Gregory connection' key to USD win Call it the Gregory connection. However you want to put it, two former Gregory prep stars – Chris Mikkelsen and Tim Dacy – played key roles in assisting the South Dakota Coyotes football team (3-2, 1-1) to a 31-27 North Central Conference win over Augustana (2-3, 0-2) on Viking Days on Saturday, Oct. 4 at Howard Wood Field in Sioux Falls.

Dacy, a redshirt freshman, halted a Augustana scoring drive by picking up a fumble by Viking running back Ryan Corcoran and taking the ball 87 yards for a defensive touchdown to give USD the 31-27 lead.

The defensive score, created by a hit by USD linebacker Mike Meekins, came with Augustana holding a 27-24 lead and moving toward another score with 6:32 to play. However, Dacy and Meekins turned the fortunes for the Coyote team. It was USD's third defensive score of the season, the most since they had three in 2001.

Dacy, who had seven tackles, wasn't done. With 25 seconds left in the game, Dacy came up big again, tipping away a desperation pass in the final seconds to turn away a last-minute drive by Augustana.

Earlier in the game, it was Mikkelsen, who had a pair of big plays for South Dakota. Mikkelsen scored a pair of touchdowns, including a record-breaking 100-yard kickoff return to open the second half and provide USD with a 17-6 lead. The return by Mikkelsen snapped the school record 99-yard kickoff return that Eric Washington set in 1994.

Then after Augustana scored 21 unanswered points in the second half, Mikkelsen's 24-yard touchdown reception pulled USD within striking distance at 27-24 with 11 minutes to play. On the day, Mikkelsen had seven catches for 91 yards and a touchdown.

Ryan DeGraff had led Augustana on three consecutive second-half scoring drives and tossed three touchdown passes to give Augustana a 27-17 lead over South Dakota with 12:54 to play in the fourth quarter.

The win by USD snapped a nine-game road losing streak, dating back to the Coyotes' 41-28 win over South Dakota State in 2000. It was USD's second straight win over Augustana and snapped a five-game NCC losing streak.

The Coyotes have won three of the last four meetings between the schools. A year ago, USD won, 16-10, in double overtime at the DakotaDome.

"It was a great day in Sioux Falls, our team played their hearts out," said USD head football coach John Austin. "To stay in the game and come back the way we did was impressive. We are glad to get a win."

Austin improved his NCC record to 13-23 and overall mark to 20-28 at USD.

On this day, Augustana scored first when Vikings' placekicker Adam Brinkman connected on a 22-yard field goal to cap a seven-play, 76-yard drive at the 12:32 mark of the first quarter. South Dakota came right back, moving the ball 56 yards in 15 plays as junior placekicker Cody Butler connected on a 19-yard field goal to tie the game 3-3 at the 4:49 mark of the first quarter.

USD took a 10-3 lead when sophomore quarterback Wesley Beschorner scored on a two-yard run with 12:42 to play in the second quarter. The only other first-half score was a 31-yard field goal by Brinkman with 3:06 to play in the second quarter.

The Coyotes moved ahead 17-6 when Mikkelsen opened the second half with his record kickoff return.

Then, the Vikings found their offense. Augustana had three straight scoring drives to take back the lead. First, the Vikings scored on a nine-yard touchdown pass from DeGraff to Eric Rice. The Vikings try for a 2-point conversion failed and USD led 17-12 with 8:30 to play in the third quarter.

After USD was unable to sustain their ensuing offensive drive, the Vikings took the lead, 18-17, when DeGraff connected with wide out Eric Haugland on a 54-yard scoring play.

Augustana was successful on their 2-point extra point try when DeGraff found an open Ryan Ovenden in the end zone as the Vikings took a 20-17 lead with 1:53 to play in the third quarter.

The Vikings took advantage of a USD mistake to build their lead. After USD freshman running back Stefan Logan fumbled the ball at the Augustana 45-yard line, the Vikings struck again. This time, DeGraff again found Rice on a 24-yard touchdown strike as the Vikings led 27-17 with 12:54 to play in the game.

Needing to answer, USD went on a 69-yard, five-play scoring drive culminated by the Beschorner to Mikkelsen touchdown pass that drew USD within 27-24 with 11:31 to play.

Again, Augustana moved the ball downfield but Dacy's fumble recovery and 87-yard return was the winning score.

USD had 331 yards in total offense on 62 plays. Beschorner had 11 rushes for 74 yards and a touchdown while completing 14-of-26 passes for 157 yards. Stefan Logan led USD's rushing game with 20 carries for 99 yards.

Meekins led USD with 12 tackles, including a tackle for loss and quarterback sack. Safety Garrett Hartwig had 10 tackles and linebacker Drew Barns had nine tackles for the Coyotes.

Augustana was led by DeGraff, who completed 33-of-51 passes for a career-high 369 yards and three touchdowns. Haugland caught 15 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown. Ryan Ovenden led the Vikings ground attack with 17 rushes for 92 yards. Drew Hilgenberg and Brett Scherschligt had eight tackles to lead Augustana on defense.

Next for South Dakota is Dakota Days when they host Minnesota State-Mankato at the DakotaDome. Gametime is set for 2 p.m.

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