Eighth-ranked South Dakota football team drops wild 55-45 decision to West Texas A&M

Eighth-ranked South Dakota football team drops wild 55-45 decision to West Texas A&M
In a battle of high powered offenses, it was two early turnovers that plagued the eighth-ranked University of South Dakota football team (0-1) in its season opener. The Coyotes fell on the road to #24 West Texas A&M University (1-0) in a wild 55-45 shootout before 12,727 in attendance at Kimbrough Memorial Stadium in Canyon, TX.

Both teams were able to move the ball from start to finish in the game; however, it was USD's turnovers and miscues that led to the win for WTAMU. The two teams combined for 1,230 yards of offense, with the Coyotes responsible for 693 yards of that total. South Dakota's single-game record for total team offense is 746 yards, which they racked up in a 63-24 win over Truman State in 2005.

Despite South Dakota's ability to move the ball, two first-half turnovers gave West Texas enough breathing room to hold on to the victory.

The Buffaloes scored touchdowns on two USD turnovers in the first half. After taking a 7-0 lead, West Texas stopped the Coyotes on the WTAMU three-yard line when they recovered a Noah Shepard fumble. Shepard had rolled out for a five-yard gain and lost the ball when he was hit at the three, where the Buffaloes recovered the ball.

West Texas wasted little time in taking advantage of the USD turnover as they scored on a 55-yard run by Keithon Flemming to go up 14-0. WTAMU moved the ball 97 yards on the four-play scoring drive.

USD was able to get on the board on their next possession thanks to a 35-yard field goal by senior kicker Frank Leibfarth, Yankton. However, the Buffaloes answered back with 13 unanswered points. Of those 13 points, seven came off a 72-yard interception return for a touchdown by Bret Jones.

Senior running back Amos Allen Miami, FL, who had a brilliant performance in his first game in a Coyote uniform, scored USD's first touchdown of the season. Allen broke off a 14-yard run to bring the score to 26-10 at the 3:47 mark of the second quarter.

Following a 22-yard touchdown run by Flemming to put the Buffaloes back on top 33-10 (2:55, second quarter), the Coyotes strung together 14 straight points in the final minute of the first half to go into halftime trailing by nine (33-24).

Sophomore quarterback Noah Shepard, Thornton, CO, connected with sophomore wide receiver Dan Skelly, Champlin, MN, on a 43-yard touchdown pass with 0:49 seconds remaining. West Texas was unable to handle the squib kick on the ensuing kickoff and the Coyotes found themselves in great scoring position right before halftime. Shepard again threw a touchdown pass as he hit Brooks Little, Castlewood, for a 19-yard score with three seconds left in the half.

In the second half West Texas took their first possession 73 yards for a touchdown and after that point never looked back. Keith Null connected with Charly Martin on a six-yard touchdown pass to go up 40-24. The Buffaloes built a 24-point lead after Martin caught a 41-yard touchdown pass from Null with 3:25 left in the third quarter. The Coyotes quickly answered when Little hauled in a five-yard touchdown pass from Shepard with 0:58 seconds left in the quarter.

Late in the fourth quarter, the Coyotes made a run at the Buffaloes by scoring on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Shepard to Skelly. After tight end London Landry, Lancaster, CA, caught the two-point conversion pass from Shepard, USD trailed by 10 points at 48-38. After an unsuccessful onside kick attempt by USD, WTAMU iced the game on Flemming's 31-yard touchdown run.

However, USD again responded in quick fashion by scoring a touchdown in just 25 seconds. Little's 22-yard touchdown reception from Shepard with 1:15 to play cut WTAMU's lead to 55-45.

Null and Martin put up big offensive numbers for the Buffaloes. Null finished the game 28-of-41 for 349 yards and two touchdowns. Martin caught 10 of Null's passes and racked up 165 yards receiving and had two touchdowns.

The surprising number in the WTAMU offense was the 169 rushing yards and four touchdowns by Flemming. Last season the Buffaloes averaged just 69.2 yards per game on the ground.

The USD offense was just as impressive in terms of yards gained on offense. Shepard recorded a career-high 422 yards passing as he was 25-of-47 with five touchdowns and one interception. Shepard's 25 completions broke the USD single-game record. Little caught a career-best nine passes for 141 yards and three touchdowns and Skelly had six catches for 107 yards with two touchdowns.

Allen proved that he will be able to handle the pressure of picking up the missing offense of All-American Stefan Logan. Allen ran the ball 18 times for 162 yards and one touchdown.

USD will look to get into the win column next weekend when they play host to Winona State University on Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. at the DakotaDome.

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