Coyotes post first shutout of season in 31-0 win over St. Cloud State

Coyotes post first shutout of season in 31-0 win over St. Cloud State
In a game that featured plenty of highlights and plenty of big numbers, one number stands out alone – 0. For the first time since the 2006 season opener, The University of South Dakota defense pitched a shutout as the 17th-ranked Coyotes defeated previously undefeated St. Cloud State University 31-0. South Dakota scored 28 first-half points as they captured their third straight win in front of 8,109 fans at the DakotaDome on Saturday.

South Dakota improves to 3-1 overall and 2-0 in the NCC on the season. The win also extended the Coyotes home winning streak to 21 games. USD head coach Ed Meierkort, who is in his fourth season, is now a perfect 20-0 at the DakotaDome.

The Coyote defense, which has improved week to week this season, allowed a season-low 237 yards of total offense. SCSU threw for 196 yards and managed just 41 rushing yards on 25 carries. USD was especially stingy on third down, where they allowed the Huskies to convert only 5-of-17 third down plays.

On the offensive side of the ball, USD was nearly perfect in the first half. After going three-and-out on their first possession of the game, South Dakota went on a scoring tear the rest of the first half. They scored touchdowns on all four of their next drives and took a 28-0 lead into halftime.

In the first half, the Coyotes racked up 352 yards of total offense. It was nearly impossible for USD quarterback Noah Shepard (So., Thornton, CO) to have much better of a half than what he put together. He threw for 216 yards on 9-of-11, passing with three touchdowns. Of his three scores, one was an 80-yard pass play to Jordan Murphy (Sr., Aberdeen).

Shepard finished the day, completing 12-of-16 passes for 259 yards and the three touchdowns. The second half of USD's one-two punch also had another strong game. Amos Allen (Sr., Miami, FL.) carried the ball for 125 yards, but was held without a rushing touchdown for the first time this season. He did, however, find the endzone on a 19-yard pass.

Murphy finished his day with six catches and a game-high 166 yards receiving. Along with his 80-yard touchdown reception, he also added a 23-yard score in the first half. In total, six Coyotes caught a pass in the game.

The Coyote offense, which went into the game as the number-one ranked offense in the nation, finished the game with 497 yards of total offense. They averaged 8.3 yards per play and 20.8 yards per completion. They made two trips into the red zone and scored a touchdown on each red-zone trip.

Justiss Scales (Sr., Columbus, OH) and Tyler Bergan (Sr., Grinnell, IA) led the Coyote defense in the game. Both players had a game-high seven tackles. Scales also added 2.5 tackles for loss and had 1.5 sacks. USD as a team tallied six tackles for a loss of 35 yards and had four sacks for a loss of 32 yards.

The Coyotes got the scoring started on their second drive of the first quarter. Shepard was instrumental in leading USD on the drive. He completed passes of 18 and 16 yards before connecting with Allen on the 19-yard touchdown pass.

After the Coyote defense forced a SCSU punt and USD got the ball on their own 20 yard line, Shepard completed a physically amazing touchdown pass. After taking the first snap of the drive, he rolled out to his right and nearly got tripped up. After regaining his balance and avoiding the pursuing Husky defenders, Shepard gained his composure and threw a bullet right in stride to Murphy around the SCSU 35 yard line and from their Murphy took it to the house to put USD up 14-0.

The South Dakota defense again forced St. Cloud to punt on their next drive, and again the USD offense wasted little time getting into the endzone. Allen started the drive with a 23-yard run before letting Shepard take over. He hit David Robinson (Sr., DeSoto, TX for a 36-yard reception and then connected with Murphy for another score. Shepard and Murphy connected on a 23-yard scoring play that gave the Coyotes a 21-0 lead.

On SCSU's next drive, the Huskies picked up a first down before being totally shut down by the Coyote defense. St. Cloud started the drive with runs of 5 and 7 yards, but then on first down, Scales busted through and sacked SCSU quarterback Mike Hammerseng for a 10-yard loss. Two incompletions later, the Huskies were forced to punt, but were able to pin the Coyotes at their own two-yard line.

From there, South Dakota put together a 15-play, 98-yard scoring drive that ate up 8:35 on the clock. Allen came up big on the drive with two big runs. On third and long on their own five-yard line, Allen broke through for a 14-yard gain. Later in the drive, he busted loose for a 37-yard scamper. The scoring drive was capped off with a one-yard rushing touchdown by Tyler Evans (Sr., Stewart, MN) on fourth down.

The second half scoring was limited to just one score for three points, but it was a big three points. With 4:17 to play in the third quarter, senior kicker Frank Leibfarth (Yankton) knocked in a career-long 52-yard field goal. Leibfarth just missed a school record, as he was two yards shy of Mike Kneip's school record 54-yard field goal. Kneip set the USD record in 1989 against Nebraska-Omaha.

The Coyotes will now hit the road for their next two games. They will start their road trip with a stop in Lake Charles, LA, as they take on McNeese State. USD and the NCAA Division I FCS team will meet on Sept. 29 at 7 p.m.

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