With the win, the Coyotes won its 17th straight home game, including 16-0 while Ed Meierkort has been the Coyotes head coach. South Dakota improved to 3-0 in the NCC, one-half game behind fourth-ranked North Dakota (6-0, 4-0 NCC). The win over UCW in the first-ever meeting between the schools was South Dakota's sixth straight on Dakota Day.
Redshirt freshman Noah Shepard (Thornton, CO) tossed a five-yard TD to junior Brooks Little (Castlewood) with 15 seconds to play as the Coyotes took a 10-7 lead and defeated Central Washington.
Shepard, who had fumbled on the Coyotes' previous possession in the fourth quarter, engineered his first career game-winning drive. Shepard had three runs for 44 yards and passed for 28 yards by completing all three of his passes during the 87-yard, eight-play drive that took just 1:21 to complete. USD also received 24 yards rushing from senior All-American Stefan Logan (Miami, FL) on the drive.
"I was so happy that we could make the play at the end of the game," said Shepard, who completed 9-of-13 passes for 84 yards with a TD. "Brooks (Little) made a great catch. I am so happy that the coaching staff was confident in putting be out there. Even after making the fumble, I felt confident that we could move the ball down the field. My teammates put their bodies on the line and on the last play, I just said, lock them up for one play."
Shepard had a career-high 69 yards rushing on seven carries. Logan finished with his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the season, accumulating 106 yards on 23 carries against a stiff UCW defense. Logan, who now has 29 career 100-yard rushing games, finished with 141 all purpose yards. With 106 yards, Logan became just the 11th running back in NCAA Division II to accumulate 5,000 yards rushing (5,035) and 6,000 (6,422) all-purpose yards. With his total today, Logan has moved into 20th place on the career rushing yards list in Division II.
Overall, USD had 320 yards on 58 offensive plays, including 197 yards rushing on 39 attempts. USD passed for 123 yards.
The Coyote defense earned an "A" for its defensive play against the Wildcats. USD held CWU to 0 yards rushing and a total of 169 yards in total offense. UCW managed only 18 second-half yards on six possessions. The Coyotes' defense recorded four quarterback sacks and also received an interception from sophomore T.J. Simmons (Houston, TX). This is the sixth straight game that USD has held an opponent with less than 100 yards rushing and has allowed just 42.8 yards per game on the season.
Little said that the TD catch was probably the biggest of his career.
"You have to hand it to Noah (Shepard) and the rest of the offense. He saw me and threw it up for only me to grab. I was going to make sure I hung on," added Little, who had seven catches for 57 yards and a TD. With his seven catches, Little moved into fifth place all-time at USD with 91 receptions. Little moved past former Coyote great Dwight Duncombe, who had 87 receptions from 1972-74.
"This was an important win for us," said head coach Ed Meierkort, who has directed USD to a 23-5 record, including 11-4 in the NCC, in three years at the Coyote helm. "We struggled on offense today but we were playing a very solid college football team. Our defense stepped up as they have all season," said Meierkort.
Blake Hojer, a sophomore from Lake Preston, continued his stellar play on defense with eight tackles and a quarterback sack. Ryan Hedden (senior, Fairmont, NE), John Barker (senior, Sioux City, IA), and Jon Lakatos (senior, Calabasas, CA) added five tackles for the Coyotes. Barker had two quarterback sacks and two tackles for loss.
Central Washington opened the scoring with a second-quarter TD on a 33-yard pass from Mike Reilly to Josh Boonstra at the 13:42 mark. UCW took the ball 59 yards on eight plays, using 4:48 of the clock. UCW took the 7-0 lead to halftime.
The Coyotes pulled within 7-3 when Frank Leibfarth (Yankton) connected on a 42-yard field goal at the 8:08 mark of the third quarter. The USD scoring drive covered 54 plays on 11 plays and took 6:41 off the clock.
South Dakota had a couple of opportunities to cut into UCW's lead in the second half but Leibfarth missed on field goal attempts of 42 yards (2:01, third quarter), and 46 yards (13:21, fourth quarter).
Next for South Dakota is a road game against Western Washington (2-4, 1-3 NCC), who rallied for a 24-17 win against St. Cloud State in St. Cloud, MN, on Saturday. Game time for the USD-WWU game is set for 3 p.m. (CST) at Civic Stadium in Bellingham, WA.