"We played hard today," said USD head coach Ed Meierkort. "However, we executed poorly on the defensive side of the ball, and we did not deserve to win this game."
Senior running back Stefan Logan (Miami, FL) posted his eighth 100-yard rushing day of the season, and the 32nd of his career, by going for a game-high 145 yards on 16 carries. Logan also caught five passes for 81 yards and two touchdowns, and accumulated 283 all-purpose yards.
Fellow senior running back Travis Mlady (Bloomfield, NE) tied a career high with four rushing scores en route to a 12-carry, 113-rushing yard afternoon. It was Mlady's fifth career 100-yard game, and his first of the season.
Freshman quarterback Noah Shepard (Thornton, CO) threw for a career-high 304 yards on 13-of-26 passing, and had a pair of touchdown tosses against no interceptions. Junior wideout Brooks Little (Castlewood) caught five passes for 100 yards.
Junior linebacker Tyler Bergan (Grinnell, IA) led USD with 10 tackles on the day, and had a blocked field goal credited to him as well. Fellow junior linebacker Justiss Scales (Columbus, OH) added eight tackles and 1.0 sacks.
For the Mavericks, quarterback Ben King a NCC record with 63 pass attempts, and fell one shy of the league mark while setting MSU standards with 40 completions and 505 while also throwing four touchdowns against one interception. Wide receiver Bryan Dalton set another MSU record with 14 receptions that went for 152 yards and a touchdown.
The two schools combined for 1,111 yards of total offense, with USD collecting 566 of those. The Coyotes held a dominating 262-to-40 advantage in rushing yardage over the Mavericks.
Minnesota State scored the first points of the game on a 12-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by a quarterback sneak on fourth and goal from the yard line. Joshua Bryant using a slight delay after taking the snap from center to allow a hole to open, and then dove into the endzone to give the Mavericks a 7-0 lead 3:39 into the contest.
USD wasted little time in evening the score at 7-7 as it marched 70 yards in the ensuing drive in just 1:45. Mlady put the Coyotes on the board by busting through a gaping hole on the left side of the line for a 16-yard touchdown run. Junior kicker Frank Leibfarth (Yankton) added the extra point to tie the game with 9:26 left in the opening quarter. The Mavericks were able to regain the lead later on in the first half thanks to a 37-yard field goal by Ben Spencer eight seconds into the second quarter.
Logan set up South Dakota's next score on a 49-yard burst through the middle before being hauled down at the Minnesota State four-yardline. Two plays later, Mlady ran literally untouched through the left side for his second touchdown of the game to close out the five-play, 80-yard drive, with Leibfarth's extra point giving the Coyotes a 14-10 lead with 12:13 remaining in the half.
Later in the second quarter, Bryant scored his second touchdown of the game, this time by being on the receiving end of a 16-yard touchdown pass from King, to allow the Mavericks to regain the lead with 3:43 left before the break, making the score 17-14. That proved to be the final scoring of the first half as Minnesota State went into the break with that 17-14 lead.
MSU's upset bid continued on its first drive of the second half when King found from 12-yards out to extend the lead to 24-14 with 11:27 remaining in the third quarter. King then led the Mavericks to their third straight touchdown when he found Bryan Alberty behind the Coyote defense for a 40-yard scoring strike, making the score 31-14 with 8:02 left on the clock on the third.
South Dakota answered the Minnesota State scoring burst with 4:19 remaining in the third quarter when Mlady scored his third rushing touchdown of the day, this time from three yards out.
Twice on that scoring drive the Coyotes converted on long conversion attempts, starting with a 54-yard reception by junior wide receiver Jordan Murphy (Aberdeen) on a third-and-25 from the USD five yardline, and the other on a 19-yard catch by junior Little on a crucial fourth-and-eight in Maverick territory.
The fourth quarter began with MSU holding onto its 31-20 lead, but USD's first play of the final frame started off with a 48-yard pass to junior wide receiver Rico Hatter (Long Beach, CA) on a fake option play-action fake Shepard. Three plays later, Shepard found Logan in the right flat, and the All-American took advantage of good downfield blocking and raced into the endzone on a 20-yard scoring play. The Coyotes went for two points on the conversion attempt to close to within three points, but the pass sailed high to keep the score at 31-26 in favor of the Mavericks.
Minnesota State responded with 9:15 left in the game when King found Terrell Smith on an out and up route following a pump fake for a 40-yard touchdown connection. The successful PAT made the score 38-26. USD quickly responded to the challenge on a three-play drive that covered 67 yards. Mlady started things off with a 42-yard run on the first play of the possession, putting the ball at the MSU 25. Logan followed with a 22-yard burst to set up a first-and-goal at the three. Then, Mlady scored his fourth rushing touchdown of the game on a three-yard plunge to slice the score 38-33 with 8:15 left on the clock.
USD's defense stopped the Mavericks on a fourth-and-four attempt at the Coyote 40-yardline thanks to a pass deflection by Bergan to give South Dakota a chance to retake the lead with less than four minutes left on the clock. Little converted a third-and-nine attempt by hauling in a 24-yard catch to put the ball at MSU's 35 to keep the drive alive.
USD's second fourth-down conversion attempt of the drive proved to be even larger than its first as Shepard scrambled around in the pocket to buy time for Logan to circle around to the back of the endzone on a wheel route, and Logan secured Shepard's lob for the go-ahead score with 1:34 left on the clock. The two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful, but the Coyotes regained the lead at 39-38.
The Mavericks started their final drive on their own 24-yardline, and they advanced the ball to the South Dakota 35 with 40 seconds left on the clock, but burned their final timeout doing so. Despite being out of timeouts, MSU got the ball to the 16-yardline with nine seconds left, to set up a would-be game-winning field goal attempt by Spencer.
Before Spencer could attempt the 33-yarder though, MSU was whistled for illegal procedure to push it back five yards. This time, the 38-yard field goal attempt by Spencer was blocked by Bergan, but miraculously, the ball bounced right into the hands of Maverick MSU's Jeff Fielder and he raced into the endzone for the stunning game-winning touchdown.
The Coyotes will host #7 Nebraska-Omaha in the 2006 USD Home Finale. Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m., on Saturday, Nov. 4, in the DakotaDome.