VERMILLION — Energized from a week of discussing the previous game, the University of South Dakota football team played like a group ready to take its frustrations out on somebody.
That someone just happened to be Drake.
Thanks to a record-tying game from senior quarterback Noah Shepard, the Coyotes gave their fans — and themselves — reason to forget about a 66-7 loss to Northern Iowa seven days prior.
"Emotions were running high. We wanted to erase last week as fast as we could," said Shepard, who rushed for five touchdowns, all in the first half, as USD cruised past Drake 51-21 on Saturday afternoon in the DakotaDome.
"And it left our minds quickly."
As did any chance for the game to be competitive.
USD scored on its first six possessions of the game, including twice in the first eight minutes on scoring runs of 1 and 3 yards by Shepard. And at the 1:54 mark of the first quarter, Shepard added a nine-yard touchdown run to put USD up 21-14.
Although the Bulldogs (2-1) added a touchdown early in the second quarter, the Coyotes commenced with the rout. By halftime, the lead had ballooned to 42-14.
"We looked very good offensively almost the whole way through," USD head coach Ed Meierkort said. "Our motto for the week was 'Get Off The Floor.' You get knocked down, you've got to get up. There was no doubt about the game from the get-go."
From the opening score, there was also little doubt that Drake would be able to stop Shepard's running attack.
Taking advantage of the option play calls and gaping holes created by the offensive line, Shepard rushed for 66 yards and tied a USD single-game record with five rushing touchdowns. He also passed for 201 yards with a touchdown to tight end London Landry.
"Note to self, any time we run the option, we are a better football team," Meierkort said. "Noah's a very effective runner. It's always been a big part of our offense."
The Coyotes rolled up 446 yards of total offense, led by 208 rushing yards.
Among the biggest turnarounds from the setback at Northern Iowa was the performance of USD's defense, specifically the line. The Coyotes allowed just 63 rushing yards to Drake a week after surrendering 234 on the ground to UNI.
"When you play good teams, things will go wrong, but if you keep fighting, things will break your way," said senior defensive end Wayne Curry, who had five tackles including a sack.
"We were just hungry."
Sophomore Chris Ganious led the way for USD with 83 yards on the ground, while senior Issac Newton added 49 yards and a touchdown — the team's first from someone other then a quarterback this season.
Senior Dan Skelly caught four passes for 92 yards and came up a yard short of setting a USD career mark for touchdowns. Skelly is tied with former Coyote Derek Gearman for first with 18 career touchdown receptions.
"One ref said I got in and the other said I didn't; that's how close it was," Skelly said later with a smile. "We'll see what happens next week."
With the win against Drake behind them, the Coyotes now turn their attention to next Saturday's showdown with Southeastern Louisiana. The Lions (2-1), who lost to fifth-ranked Mississippi on Saturday, will be the first fully-funded Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) team to visit the DakotaDome.
Yet, USD needs no extra motivation for the game.
Last year in Hammon, La., the Coyotes dropped a 31-30 decision to Southeastern Louisiana, when a game-winning two-point conversion fell short with no time remaining on the clock.
"We had to try to build some momentum," Shepard said. "It's good to get another FCS win, but we owe those guys (Lions) one. I put it on my shoulders. I'm taking this one a little personal."