Bittersweet Victory

Bittersweet Victory
History was made Saturday in a DakotaDome bulging with over 9,700 people.

The University of South Dakota Coyotes defeated UND 42-30 to claim a piece of the North Central Conference crown � a feat last accomplished by USD nearly 30 years ago.

The University of South Dakota football squad pulled out all the stops Saturday in their play against seventh-ranked North Dakota.

If quarterback Wesley Beschorner wasn't completing long bombs to wide receiver Derek Gearman, he was eluding the UND defense on the ground.

USD junior running back Stefan Logan also was relentless, driving, time and again, into a human wall of defenders to move the ball closer to the goal.

USD's defensive end A.J. Schable sacked UND's quarterback three times to lead the Coyote defense.

And when the game turned particularly tense in the second half, Tim Dacy intercepted two passes, spoiling UND's chances of scoring.

The win by South Dakota ended a 27-year title drought, dating to the 1978 season. USD, North Dakota, Nebraska-Omaha and Minnesota-Duluth all captured a share of the title with 4-2 records.

The Gearman connection

Right from the start, the Fighting Sioux realized they were going to have their hands full Saturday.

On the first play from scrimmage, Beschorner neatly planted a 43-yard pass into Gearman's outstretched hands. That drive ended with an 8-yard touchdown reception to Desmond Allison.

Gearman was Beschorner's target again with just under 7 minutes left to play in the first quarter. The 46-yard completion gave the Coyotes a 14-0 edge.

The most lethal strike of the day was yet to come, however. In the middle of the third quarter, Beschorner fired an 88-yard rocket to Gearman from the 5 yard line.

Gearman came down with the ball in the middle of the gridiron, accelerated past the last UND defender, and trotted into the endzone to put USD up 35-10.

South Dakota extended its home winning streak to 13 games. More importantly, USD faced a must-win situation Saturday to keep its playoff hopes alive.

After Gearman scored the Coyotes' second touchdown, USD built its lead to 21-0 when sophomore wide receiver Brooks Little caught a 15-yard scoring strike from Beschorner with 13:51 to play in the second quarter. USD's scoring drive covered 88 yards in 11 plays and used 5:32 of the clock.

UND fights back

UND answered with a 27-yard field goal by Jeff Glas at the 8:11 mark of the second quarter. USD responded with another long scoring drive (12 plays, 79 yards, 4:32) to extend its margin to 28-3 after Beschorner connected with tight end David Cronin on a five-yard TD pass at the 1:03 mark of the second quarter. On the day, USD had scoring drives of 69, 75, 88, 79, 80, and 80 yards.

The Fighting Sioux kept fighting back, scoring first in the second half when Weston Dressler caught a 36-yard TD pass from backup quarterback Reed Manke at the 9:47 mark of the third quarter to cut USD's lead to 28-10.

USD again answered when Beschorner connected with Gearman on the 88-yard TD pass play at the 7:23 mark of the third quarter.

UND rebounded by scoring on a 68-yard pass from Manke to Dan Grossman at the 6:56 mark of the third quarter to cut the lead to 35-17.

Beschorner again made a big play as he scored on a 35-yard run at the 2:22 mark of the third quarter to help USD to a 42-17 lead. UND closed out the scoring with a pair of TD runs by Manke to cut the final margin to 42-30.

South Dakota's defense generated pass pressure all game, finishing with seven quarterback sacks. Steve Schermerhorn led USD with nine tackles. Dacy's two interceptions increased his total to five on the season.

UND was led offensively by Manke, who completed 28-of-44 passes for 335 yards, two TDs and two interceptions. Grossman had 11 catches for 181 yards and Weston Dressler finished with 10 catches and 101 yards. Both Grossman and Dressler had TD receptions. UND was led on defense by Digger Anderson who had nine tackles.

?The biggest win'

"This is the biggest win I've ever had as a coach," said USD head football coach Ed Meierkort, who improved his record at South Dakota to 18-4, including 8-4 in the NCC. "I am very proud of our team. We came out on fire before a packed house. We feed off the home environment at the Dome. The enthusiasm of the fans and students was fantastic, plus we play fast here," he said.

USD generated 557 yards in total offense, including 221 rushing and 336 passing yards. Through 11 games, USD is averaging 583.3 yards in total offense per game.

Beschorner became USD's all-time passing leader Saturday as he completed 17-of-29 passes for 330 yards and six combined TDs. He threw five TD passes and also had a 35-yard scoring run. Beschorner also rushed for 119 yards on 15 carries. Overall he had 449 yards in total offense on 46 plays. With his total Saturday, Beschorner now has 6,221 yards passing in his career, surpassing the mark of 5,924 yards by Ryan Justice from 1999-02. The 100-yard rush game was his second of the season.

"This was the biggest win of my career," said Beschorner, who also won a state title as a quarterback at Southern Calhoun High School. "The key for us was attacking quickly. Our offensive line play big and the defense stepped up."

Defensive end A.J. Schable had three quarterback sacks to lead the Coyote defense, which held North Dakota in check with just three first half points. "When we saw this crowd ? it meant a lot to us. We played hard and the results came out in our favor."

The Coyotes also received big games from junior running back Stefan Logan, who had 101 yards rushing and 175 all-purpose yards. Logan rushed for his school-record 24th 100-yard plus rushing game of his career. He now has 10 100-yard rushing games this season.

He has 15 100-yard rushing games against NCC schools in his career.

Gearman's two TD receptions gives him the Coyotes' career record with 18 and his season total of 1,215 yards eclipses the mark of 1,086 set by Rod Tweet in 1984.

"This was a huge game for us," said Gearman, who is averaging 27.6 yards per catch and 110 yards receiving per game in 2005. "To beat a good team like UND, it makes it special. This was a total team effort. I am very pleased with how we played. I'd like to thank coach (Jarod) Dodson for helping me become a better receiver. He has showed me a ton of things."

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