Coyote football is 4-0 with 45-44 win On a day when the offenses moved up and down the field, it was two plays by South Dakota sophomore defensive back Jordan Davis that proved the difference in the Coyotes' 45-44 nonconference football win over Wisconsin-LaCrosse (1-1) before 5,014 at the DakotaDome on Saturday, Sept. 18.
With the win, South Dakota opened a season with a 4-0 record for the first time since 1996 when USD opened 5-0 before finishing 6-5. USD's victory also was a bit of retribution after losing a nail-biter a year ago, 28-24, to Wisconsin-LaCrosse at LaCrosse, WI. The Eagles came into the game ranked second in the NCAA Division III poll.
Davis of San Antonio, TX, made the first of his two big plays after U-WL drew within 45-44 with 4:30 left by blocking an extra point attempt. Then, on the final play of the game, Davis intercepted a pass by Steve Tennies on a Hail Mary toss near the end zone.
Leading the way for South Dakota's offense was Stefan Logan (Miami, FL), who had 130 yards rushing on 25 carries, the eighth 100-yard game of his career. Quarterback Wesley Beschorner (Lohrville, IA) completed 13-of-18 passes for 136 yards with two TDs and had 14 rushes for 46 yards and a TD. This season, he has already accounted for 13 TDs, nine by pass and four by rush.
Travis Mlady (Bloomfield, NE), who had a streak of three-straight 100-yard rushing games broken, had 67 yards rushing on nine carries.
Wideout Chris Mikkelsen (Gregory) caught six passes for 66 yards and a TD.
The two teams generated 844 yards of total offense, including 410 by the Coyotes. USD rushed for 292 yards on 56 carries and had 136 yards passing. Wisconsin-LaCrosse had 270 yards rushing and 164 yards through the air.
The visitors jumped to a quick 7-0 lead in the first quarter as Corey Geldernick scored on a 34-yard run and Jedediah Jensen added the conversion kick with 13:56 to play. The big play was Matt Pagel's 51-yard kickoff return that set up Geldernick's score.
After both teams failed to sustain offensive drives, the Coyotes tied the game with 25 seconds to play in the first quarter when USD's Beschorner connected with tight end Paul Tschetter (Sioux Falls) on a 12-yard TD pass play. With Cody Butler's (Hastings, NE) extra point, the game was tied 7-7.
The Eagles took a 10-7 lead on Jensen's 41-yard field goal at the 10:03 mark of the second quarter. In this game, both teams would trade offensive punches all day. The Coyotes took its first lead of the game on Tyler Evans (Stewart, MN) one-yard TD run at the 7:22 mark of the second quarter. USD moved the ball 58 yards on eight plays in 2:41.
Key plays on the drive included an 18-yard run by Travis Mlady and a 15-yard run by Evans, which moved the ball to the five-yard line. Evans rushed 31 yards on seven carries and and had two rushing TDs that gives him four this season.
Once again, the Eagles answered back. Second-team preseason All-American Scott Burnoski hauled in a 42-yard TD pass from Tennies and Jensen's kick gave U-WL a 17-14 lead with 4:12 to play in the half.
The offenses and special teams continued the scoring onslaught in a 35-point third quarter. USD answered the bell on its first drive of the second half. Beschorner scored on a six-yard run at the 10:51 mark to cap a eight-play, 53-yard drive. With Butler's extra point kick, USD led, 21-17.
The Eagles responded in kind as Pagel, who had 123 yards rushing, had a 69-yard TD run at the 10:33 mark. With Jensen's extra point conversion, the Eagles went back on top, 24-21.
That lead, like so many others in this game, was short-lived. USD's Ricardo Sorrell (Las Vegas, NV) returned the kickoff 88-yards for a TD, his first career score at South Dakota. With Butler's kick, the Coyotes led 28-24.
That lead didn't last long either as Eagles' fullback Robin Finco scored on an 82-yard run with 9:22 to play in the third quarter. The three scores by the two teams took just 71 seconds of the third quarter.
USD regained the lead late in the third quarter as Evans scored his second TD of the game, this time on a two-yard run. The Coyotes' scoring drive covered 88 yards on 12 plays and took 6:48 off the clock. With Butler's kick, USD took a 35-31 lead.
The Coyotes got a break on the following kickoff when Tim Triplett (Iowa City, IA) recovered a loose ball at the Eagles' 21-yard line. USD couldn't punch the ball in the end zone and settled for a 23-yard field goal by Butler as USD led 38-31 with 14:48 to play in the fourth quarter.
After the Coyotes held U-WL, Mikkelsen caught a five-yard TD pass from Beschorner with 11:13 to play in the game. Butler's extra point kick gave the Coyotes its biggest lead of the game at 45-31.
The Eagles, however, weren't finished. They had the final two scores of the game, which wasn't quite enough to take the lead. First, Geldernick scored on a two-yard run with 6:51 to play in the game. Jensen's kick pulled U-WL within, 45-38.
On the following Coyote possession, a turnover allowed the Eagles to cut into the lead even more. On a third-down run, Logan fumbled the ball, which was picked up by the Eagles' Ken Halvorson and he went 38 yardsd for a TD. Then Davis made his block of the extra point which left U-WL down by a 45-44 count.
USD took the next possession and ran off about 2:30 of the clock before turning the ball over to the Eagles. After a USD punt, U-WL started its final drive at its own 21-yard line. U-WL moved the ball to the Coyote 43-yard line with seven seconds to play, but the Hail Mary toss was intercepted by Davis as South Dakota hung on for the win.
For the Eagles, Tennies completed 10-of-22 passes for 164 yards, a TD and an interception. Burnoski finished with four receptions for 74 yards and a TD. Finco had two carries for 84 yards and Geldernick added 66 yards on 11 carries.
For USD, Sorrell had five kickoff returns for 165 yards and the 88-yard TD kickoff return. Tschetter caught three passes for 34 yards and a TD.
Defensively, Ryan Hedden (Fairmont, NE) had seven tackles, including one quarterback sack and a tackle for loss. USD had two quarterback sacks to give the team 15 on the season.
Ken Halvorson led the U-WL defense with 14 tackles, two tackles for loss and the 38-yard TD fumble recovery. Steve Teeples had 10 tackles and an interception that he returned 40 yards.
South Dakota will now travel to Nebraska-Omaha in its North Central Conference road opener. Gametime is set for 1:05 p.m. Saturday. The game will be broadcast on South Dakota and Nebraska Public Television.