Senior quarterback Noah Shepard set USD's career touchdown passes record with a nine-yard strike early in the second quarter, but the South Dakota football team lost, 27-12, to North Dakota on Saturday in front of more than 12,431 fans at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, ND. The Coyotes dropped to 3-2 overall and 0-1 in the Great West Conference, while the Fighting Sioux improved to 2-2 and 1-0 in league action.
A tight one-point contest at half turned into a UND win with 14 unanswered points in the second half. USD outrushed UND 201-184, but North Dakota held a 270-173 advantage through the air. The Fighting Sioux had 22 first downs and 454 yards of total offense compared to 20 first downs and 374 yards for the Coyotes.
USD couldn't manage any points on its first drive of the contest, and UND started to generate offensive momentum, but Brandon Hellevang missed his first field goal of the season from 38 yards. South Dakota didn't waste their second chance on the offensive side of the ball, though.
After several big rushes from running back Isaac Newton (Sr., New Orleans, LA), including a 23-yard rumble, and a fumble recovery by tight end London Landry (Sr., Lancaster, CA) at the UND one-yard line, Newton punched the ball in from one yard out. USD's scoring drive was 10 plays for 79 yards in 4:27, but Dustin Nowotny's (So., Rapid City) extra point attempt was blocked.
An unsportsmanlike penalty and a big run back on the kickoff by Ismael Bamba gave UND good field position inside USD's 30 yard line, and the Fighting Sioux capitalized. Three-straight rushing plays and UND's Mitch Sutton found the back of the end zone.
The Coyotes responded with another scoring drive, this time with the help of wide receiver Ben Oberle (Sr., Vermillion). Shepard found Oberle for a 44-yard pass down the right-hand side of the field and then connected with him two plays later from nine-yards out for the score. The play gave Shepard 65 career touchdown tosses at South Dakota. Sam Sawyer's (Fr., Brandon) extra-point attempt was blocked, as South Dakota took a 12-7 lead early in the second quarter.
North Dakota countered with its air attack on an eight-play, 60-yard drive, as Bamba caught several passes and Jarrel Davis hauled in a 13-yard touchdown catch over the middle. The Fighting Sioux had trouble of their own on the extra-point attempt, as the snap was fumbled and the holder was tackled to put UND up by one, 13-12.
The offenses exchanged three-and-outs, before USD put together another extended drive. Shepard found wide receiver Tom Flanagan (Fr., Lakewood, CO) for a 25-yard strike that softened upped the UND defense and allowed USD to chip away at the Fighting Sioux on the ground. Running back Chris Ganious (So., Houston, TX) posted rushes of 12 and 15 yards, before Flanagan took an end around for 22 yards to the UND two yard line. The drive stalled though, and Sawyer missed a 21-yard attempt to end the first half. UND held a 166-116 advantage through the air in the first half, but the Coyotes outrushed the Fighting Sioux 144-46.
UND opened the second half with a systematic drive that lasted 12 plays, 80 yards and 5:44, before Landry connected with Sutton for a 12 yard score. Landry went 6-of-8 through the air on the drive, and the UND forced a punt from the Coyotes on the ensuing drive.
The Coyotes defense also stepped up, stopping a UND drive at midfield to give the ball back to USD at its own 24. USD drove to the UND 29 in 10 plays and looked to be creating momentum, but a tipped pass lead to a Fighting Sioux interception and North Dakota turned it into a touchdown to go up 27-12 early in the fourth quarter.
USD respond with a 13-play, 50-yard drive to get inside the UND one-yard line, but Shepard was unable to get inside the end zone on three consecutive rushes, as the Coyotes turned the ball over on downs with 3:33 left in the contest. Three UND first downs allowed the Fighting Sioux to run out the clock.
Shepard went 14-of-27 in the contest for 173 yards and one touchdown. Newton finished with 74 yards on the ground, while Ganious earned 58. Flanagan had 61 yards receiving.
South Dakota continues its season when the Coyotes host UC Davis as part of the Dakota Days celebration Saturday at 2 p.m. in the DakotaDome.