Coyotes suffer first season loss to St. Cloud State

Coyotes suffer first season loss to St. Cloud State
A fourth quarter rally by the fifth-ranked South Dakota football team (7-1, 3-1 NCC) fell short as the Coyotes dropped a 24-17 decision to 12th-ranked St. Cloud State (7-1, 3-1) in North Central Conference football at Husky Stadium in St. Cloud State on Saturday.

The homecoming win by St. Cloud State ended the Coyotes' winning streak at seven games and pulled the Huskies into a second-place tie with USD in the NCC standings. North Dakota leads the league with a 3-0 record by virtue of a 33-10 win over Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday.

South Dakota trailed SCSU, 24-3, before scoring twice in the final eight minutes of play on a pair of TD passes by quarterback Wes Beschorner (Lohrville, IA).

The Coyotes won a number of statistical categories against St. Cloud State, including generating 444 yards in total offense on 81 plays. USD totaled 206 yards on the ground and 238 yards through the air.

However, USD was hurt by penalties (6-59 yards), particularly in the first half, when USD had a pair of costly mistakes in the red zone.

Beschorner completed 21-of-33 passes for 238 yards, two TDs and an interception. SCSU had 128 yards rushing on 37 carries and 164 yards passing for a total of 292 yards in total offense on 59 plays.

USD continued to break school records, including setting a team mark for TDs in a season with 56 (54, 2004). Junior running back Stefan Logan of Miami, FL continued his All-American season by setting a school-record for career all purpose yards. With 174 yards today, he now has accumulated 4,561 all-purpose yards in his career which bettered the mark of former Coyote standout Chul Schwanke (4,449 yards, 1982-85).

Logan, who had 168 yards rushing on 32 carries against SCSU, has 21 100-yard plus rushing games in his career. Logan increased his league-leading rushing total to 1,218 yards rushing this season, which is the fourth-best single-season total in school history. Over the past two seasons, the Coyote football team now has broken 47 school records.

Sophomore wide receiver Brooks Little (Castlewood) led the Coyotes' receiving corps with eight receptions for 108 yards and a TD. It was Little's third 100-yard-plus receiving game this season.

USD failed to score a TD in the first half for the first time this season.

"We played hard today but we had too many mistakes," USD head football coach Ed Meierkort told Lane Grindle of the Coyote Sports Network in a post-game interview. "I said it before that nobody goes unbeaten anymore. We still have our goals in place, including the opportunity to win the league and hopefully qualifying for the national playoffs. However, we need to re-focus and get things right. We are not performing to our expectations."

Meierkort is now 16-3 overall at South Dakota, including a 7-3 career NCC record.

"Our running game is solid but the passing game is struggling. I know we will be okay but we have to stop making mistakes," he said. "We played a very good team that qualified for the national playoffs a year ago. They (SCSU) got the momentum going early and made a couple of big plays. Meanwhile, we took bad penalties in the red zone, which made a big difference today."

St. Cloud State opened the scoring when Shawn Braunagel connected on a 32-yard field goal at the 9:43 mark of the first quarter to give the Huskies a 3-0 lead. The Coyotes answered the score at the 14:15 mark of the second quarter on a 21-yard field goal by Frank Liebfarth (Yankton).

On the drive, the Coyotes moved the ball to the SCSU's nine-yard line after Beschorner connected with Nick Cunningham (Albert Lea, MN) on a 16-yard pass play. But on the next play, USD was flagged for a holding penalty after Travis Mlady (Bloomfield, NE) had taken the ball to the two-yard line. Three plays later, USD was forced to settle for a game-tying field goal. USD's scoring drive covered 77 yards in 15 plays and used 4:30 of the clock.

The game remained tied until SCSU's Matt Birkel scored the first of his two TDs on the day. With 4:45 to play in the second quarter, Birkel scored on a 36-yard run. With Braunagel's PAT, SCSU led, 10-3.

The Huskies built the lead to 17-3 when quarterback Daniel Kaczor connected with wide receiver Ryan Koch on a six-yard scoring pass play with a minute left in the half. SCSU took advantage of a short field with its scoring drive covering 36 yards on nine plays in 2:31.

South Dakota moved the ball on its opening possession of the second half, reaching SCSU's 39-yard line before another penalty killed the drive. After that, the game took on a battle of field position as the defenses controlled the action. Then, St. Cloud State took advantage of another short field as Birkel, who rushed for 139 yards, scored his second TD on a 39-yard run with 49 seconds left in the third quarter. SCSU scored on a 40-yard drive in three plays.

The Coyotes made a rush at the Huskies in the fourth quarter when USD's passing game started clicking. Beschorner connected on a pair of TD passes to help draw the Coyotes to 24-17 late in the game. The first score was a 27-yard scoring strike to Brooks Little (Castlewood) with 8:25 to play. With Frank Leibfarth's kick, USD trailed, 24-10. USD's scoring drive covered 95 yards on 11 yards and used 4:41 of the clock. With 1:24 left in the game, Beschorner connected with Derek Gearman (Lennox) on a 38-yard TD pass to cut the deficit to 24-17. However, USD's onside kick failed and despite holding the Huskies to a three and out, the Coyotes took the ball back with only 19 seconds to play.

Defensively, the Coyotes were led by its All-American defensive end candidate A.J. Schable (Ida Grove, IA), who had 11 tackles, including three quarterback sacks and three tackles for loss. Schable now has 13 QB sacks this season and 15.5 tackles for loss. USD's Chris Reid (Hills, MN) and linebacker Ryan Hedden (Fairmont, MN) also recorded double figures in tackles with 10 stops.

Reid led USD with six solo tackles. St. Cloud State was led defensively by Tate Wheeler with 12 tackles and an interception. Justin Kroll of SCSU had eight tackles and four QB sacks. SCSU's quarterback Daniel Kaczor completed 14-of-22 passes for 164 yards and a TD.

Next for the Coyotes is its final nonconference game of the season when Upper Iowa (2-6) comes to the DakotaDome for a 2 p.m. game on Family Day.

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