With the win, the Coyotes (6-3, 5-1 NCC) will now be playing for first place in the NCC next week when they travel to the University of Nebraska-Omaha. The game, which will be televised live on national TV on the CSTV network, will feature USD with their one conference loss and the conference's lone remaining unbeaten team, Nebraska-Omaha (8-0, 6-0).
USD's home win streak now moves to 23 straight games with the win. Head coach Ed Meierkort is now 22-0 at DakotaDome in his career. During the 23-game home winning streak, the Coyotes have outscored their opponents 1,017 to 335 and are averaging 44.2 points per game while allowing just 14.6 points per game.
Despite allowing 480 passing yards, the Coyote defense made a major impact in the win. USD limited the Mavericks to -17 yards rushing and intercepted MSU quarterback Ben King three times in the game, one of which was run back for a touchdown by Isaiah Dixon (Junior; Minneapolis, MN). Along with three interceptions, USD also forced three fumbles in the game.
Joel Gentile (Junior; Council Bluffs, IA) came up with turnovers in the game that were all during crucial moments of the game. He had two interceptions that halted MSU drives well inside Coyote territory and he recovered a fumble after the Mavericks had gained 21 yards and near midfield while trailing by eight in the fourth quarter.
Along with the forced turnovers, the Coyotes were able to apply constant pressure on King. For the second time in the last three games, USD finished with seven sacks in the game. Wayne Curry (Sophomore; Tampa, FL) had a career-high 3.5 sacks while John Morales (Senior; Martinez, CA) added 3.0 sacks. For Morales, it was the second time in the last three games he has recorded three sacks in a game. He had three sacks on Oct. 13 when USD defeated Western Washington. That game was also the last time USD had seven team sacks in a game.
T.J. Simmons (Junior; Houston, TX) led the Coyotes with five tackles. Ryan Routh (Sophomore; Sioux Falls) and Justiss Scales (Senior; Columbus, OH) each recovered a fumble.
The USD offensive didn't have its most explosive game of the season, but still compiled 486 yards of total offense in the game. Amos Allen (Senior; Miami, FL) and Noah Shepard (Sophomore; Thornton, CO) led the Coyotes on offense, as both players displayed their dual threat abilities.
Allen ran for 126 yards on 28 carries and scored a touchdown. He also had four catches for 89 yards, one of which was a 53-yard reception that set up a two-yard touchdown run by Shepard that put USD up 28-17. Shepard completed 14-of-25 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown to go along with his rushing touchdown. He did not throw an interception in the game and was sacked just once. In addition to his passing totals, he also ran the ball for 93 yards.
Jordan Murphy (Senior; Aberdeen) caught four passes for 79 yards and a score. His touchdown reception came on a 43-yard play, marking the third time this season that he has hauled in a touchdown pass of 20 or more yards in a game. Brooks Little (Senior; Castlewood) added to his career receptions lead at USD as he caught three passes for 35 yards. He now has 159 career catches at USD.
The game could not have gotten off to any better of a start for South Dakota and its defense. After King threw an incomplete pass to start the game, Dixon picked off King on the second play from scrimmage and ran it back 35-yards for the touchdown to give USD an early 7-0 lead.
However, the Mavericks would answer back on their next possession. After getting sacked on the first play of their next possession, King went off to complete four of five passes to drive MSU 59 yards on six plays to tie the game at 7-7. Three of his completions went for big first downs, as King completed passes of 24, 17 and 18 yards.
After the two quick scores to start the game, the scoring hit a bit a snag as USD and Minnesota State combined to go scoreless on their next nine drives. The scoring didn't resume again until the second quarter when Shepard connected with Murphy on USD's first play of their drive to go up 14-7.
The Coyotes would be able to go up by two touchdowns thanks to a three and out by MSU on their ensuing possession following the touchdown. With South Dakota getting the ball on its own 24-yard line, the offense drove down 76 yards on 10 plays to go up 21-7. Allen chipped away at the Maverick defense before busting free for runs of 21 and 30 yards before scoring a two-yard touchdown run.
The Mavericks would answer back with a field goal to cut the lead to 21-10 and then made the game really interesting when the forced the Coyotes to go three and out. After getting the ball back from USD the Mavericks went on a seven play, 93-yard scoring drive in just over three minutes to pull to within four points. King again came up big for Minnesota State as he went 6-for-6 on the drive and had four completions of 15 or more yards. His biggest play of the drive was a 31-yard completion to Tory Chappell before capping off the drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Chris Nowlin.
In the second half the Coyotes would regain their two score lead thanks to one of Gentile's interception. After Gentile's interception and a personal foul gave the Coyotes the ball at the MSU 45, Shepard hit Allen for a 53-yard completion to put the Coyotes down at the Minnesota State two-yard line. Two plays later, Shepard sneaked in for a touchdown to give USD a 28-17 lead.
Following the USD touchdown, the Mavericks would again fumble but were let off the hook when Frank Leibfarth (Senior; Yankton) missed a 45-yard field goal. With MSU getting the ball back in good field position, they proceeded to move down the field and score to pull to within 28-23. MSU would go for two following the touchdown, but were unable to convert.
South Dakota would seal the victory early in the fourth quarter thanks to Leibfarth's leg. The NCC Special Teams Player of the Week connected on field goal of 35 and 26 yards to put the Coyotes up 34-23 with 9:35 to play in the game.
Minnesota State looked as though they were going to pull to within four as they drove down to the South Dakota 19 yard line. However, Gentile again came up with a big play as he recorded his second interception of the game to lock up the win for USD.