Coyote football opens season with win

Coyote football opens season with win In the coaching debut of head coach Ed Meierkort and his staff, the South Dakota Coyotes football team (1-0) successfully opened the 2004 season with a 49-22 conquest of Truman State (0-1) before 3,100 at Stokes Stadium in Kirksville, MO, on Saturday, Aug. 28.

The Coyotes improved to 40-24 (323 games) in nonconference games since 1974. USD, which defeated Truman State for the ninth straight time, is also 12-3 all-time vs. the MIAA.

South Dakota, with nine offensive starters returning, moved the ball all day, rolling up 548 yards in total offense, including 311 on the ground and 237 through the air. The Coyotes averaged 8.4 yards per play, including a 7.2 yard per rush average.

The 311 yards rushing was the biggest total since rolling up 388 yards in a 42-7 win over St. Joseph in the eighth game (Oct. 26) of the 2002 season. USD's offense controlled the game with six scoring drives of 56 yards or better.

Against Truman State, the Coyotes were led by USD sophomore running back Travis Mlady (Bloomfield, NE), who rushed for a career-high 158 yards on 15 carries and scored a TD. Mlady, who came into the game with 42 career yards rushing, had runs of 38 and 39 yards that helped set up Coyote scores. Also for USD, sophomore wide receiver Derek Gearman (Lennox) had an outstanding performance in his first career start. Gearman, who also excels on the USD track team, had three catches for 136 yards with two TDs. He had a school-record 88-yard TD catch in the third quarter and a 40-yard scoring reception in the fourth quarter. �

In addition, junior quarterback Wesley Beschorner (Lohrville, IA) accounted for a career-best four TDs, including three TD passes and a four-yard scoring run. Beschorner completed 11 of 17 passes for 198 yards and had one interception. He also rushed for 18 yards.

The 88-yard pass play from Beschorner to Gearman in the third quarter set a USD game record for longest pass and longest reception, previously held on an 84-yard pass play from Tom Engelman to Joe Trudeau against Idaho State in 1971. Running back Stefan Logan (sophomore, Miami, FL), who played just the first half, had eight carries for 79 yards and three catches for 20 yards.

On defense, USD limited Truman State to 59 yards on the ground and 345 yards in total offense. In addition, USD had four quarterback sacks, six tackles for loss, recovered a fumble and had an interception.

USD scored first when senior Beschorner connected with senior tight end Paul Tschetter (Sioux Falls) on a seven-yard scoring strike with 12:13 to play in the quarter. USD moved the ball 69 yards in five plays in 1:03 to take an early 7-0 lead. Key plays in the USD drive was a 20-yard run and a 13-yard pass reception by Logan.

After Truman State's Jerard Leverson scored from one-yard out (3:14, 1st quarter) to tie the game at 7-7, it was Beschorner who helped USD retake the lead. Beschorner scored on a four-yard run with 9:28 to play in the first half as USD took a 14-7 lead. The USD drive covered 80 yards on 10 plays in 5:35.

Key plays in the drive were a 19-yard run by Logan and Mlady's 38-yard run that moved the ball to the Truman State eight-yard line. The home-standing Bulldogs answered as A.J. Weber caught a two-yard TD pass from Jake Czeschin to tie the game at the 3:31 mark of the second quarter.

Just before halftime, USD scored the go-ahead TD on a special teams play. With 43 seconds to play in the half, senior Chris Mikkelsen (Gregory) had a 68-yard punt return but fumbled the ball into the end zone, which was recovered by USD's Ricardo Sorrell. With Casey Butler's conversion, the Coyotes led 21-14 with 21 seconds left in the half.

From that point on, USD rolled by outscoring the Bulldogs, 28-8 in the second half. First, sophomore fullback Tyler Evans (Stewart, MN) scored his first career TD on a 35-yard run at the 13:23 mark of the third quarter as USD led 28-14. On the drive, USD covered 87 yards on five plays in 1:33. For the game, Evans rushed for a career-best 59 yards on seven carries.

On USD's next possession, Beschorner and Gearman worked their school-record passing magic. On a second down play from the 12-yard line, Beschorner found a wide open Gearman, who caught the ball in stride and sprinted to the end zone on the 88-yard scoring play at the 10:26 mark of the third quarter as USD led 35-14. �

Gearman and Beschorner connected again on a 40-yard scoring play with 10:45 left in the fourth quarter. The scoring drive covered 56 yards on five plays in 1:29. �

USD closed out its scoring on the day when Mlady scored on an eight-yard TD run at the 5:27 mark of the fourth quarter for a 49-14 lead. The Coyotes' final scoring drive went 71 yards on six plays and took 2:30 off the clock.

Truman State scored with 15 seconds left on a two-yard run by Jonathan Duffy. Duffy also scored on the two-point conversion to close out the scoring. �

Defensively, Ryan Hedden, a sophomore from Fairmont, NE, led the Coyotes with eight tackles. Sophomore defensive back Jordan Davis (Summerset, TX), junior Garon Borowski (Ralston, NE), redshirt freshman defensive tackle, Zach Johnson (Brookings) and junior defensive tackle Adam Schwab (Mantorville, MN) had quarterback sacks.

Junior defensive back Kellen Burch (St. Paul, MN) had an interception and Brett Peterson (Clear Lake, IA) had a fumble recovery.

Also for USD, quarterback Sean McLaughlin (Omaha, NE) completed three of five passes for 39 yards, including a 32-yard pass play to redshirt freshman Brooks Little (Castlewood). Punter Luke Mikkelsen (sophomore, Gregory) averaged 41.4 yards on four punts (164 yards), including a long of 45 yards. Kicker Casey Butler (Hastings, NE) was successful on seven extra point conversions.

Truman State's defense was led by Ben Wilson, who had 17 tackles. Austin Hills had 12 tackles. The Bulldogs' offense was led by Czeschin, who completed 23 of 38 passes for 286 yards with one TD and an interception. Wide receiver Jeff Amundson had six receptions for 68 yards and wide out Michael Patnode caught four passes for 63 yards.

South Dakota returns home for a Thursday night game on Sept. 2 at the DakotaDome. The Coyotes host Peru State at 7 p.m.

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