USD Football falls in OT to Montana State, 31-24

For the second straight week the South Dakota football team lost a heartbreaker in overtime, as Montana State held on a fourth and goal play to claim a 31-24 win in front of more than 13, 800 fans on Saturday at Bobcat Stadium in Bozeman, MT. USD fell to 3-4 on the year, while MSU improved to 4-2.

South Dakota battled back from a 21-10 halftime deficit to tie Montana State at 24 and send the game to into an extra period, but USD couldn't prevail. The Coyotes won the overtime toss and went on defense first. A tripping penalty drove the MSU offense back, but quarterback Cody Kempt hit wide receiver Elvis Akpla for a 36-yard touchdown pass on second and 21 to take the lead. South Dakota responded with a drive to the MSU three, but a fourth-and-three pass attempt bounced off the hands of wide receiver Dan Skelly (Champlin, MN) and fell incomplete.

Senior quarterback Noah Shepard (Thornton, CO) finished 20-of-35 for 263 yards and three touchdowns through the air and rushed for another 77. Freshman wide receiver Tom Flanagan (Lakewood, CO) notched a career day with seven catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns, while sophomore running back Chris Ganious (Houston, TX) added 95 yards on the ground. Defensively, sophomore safety Shane Potter (Becker, MN) had 10 tackles, including six solo stops, and sophomore linebackers Shea Williams (Alexandria) and Adam Broders (Bloomfield, NE) each had seven tackles.

Montana State jumped out to a 14-0 lead early in the first quarter. After USD punted on its first drive, the Bobcats connected on several big plays, including a 32-yard pass to wide receiver Julius Lloyd and a 25-yard run by CJ Palmer, before Kempt connected on a 13-yard pass to Everett Gilbert for the touchdown. 

The six-play, 74-yard drive took up 2:48 and put the Bobcats up, but they padded the lead when USD running back Marcus Sims (Brooklyn Park, MN) fumbled on the following kickoff. MSU recovered on USD's 26 and seven plays later found the back of the endzone courtesy of a one-yard pass to tight end Kyle Begger.

Shepard calmed the Coyotes down with a 10-play, 79-yard drive in 5:22 that culminated with a one-yard touchdown catch by Flanagan to cut the lead to 14-7. Shepard completed a 21-yard strike to sophomore wide receiver Dustin Nowotny (Rapid City) over the middle of the field and then the Coyotes went to work on the ground. Ganious ripped off 15 yards, before Shepard had several big runs of his own to finish the drive with 40 rushing yards.

The USD defense also found a grove when it forced a three-and-out on MSU's next drive. The Bobcats were near midfield and attempted a fake punt, but the pass fell incomplete and USD took over at the MSU 47. The Coyote offense drove again, including a 27-yard pass from Shepard to Skelly to reach Montana State's three-yard line, but USD couldn't score on a fourth-down attempt inside MSU's one.

The USD defense picked up where it left off, though, and forced another three-and-out by the Bobcat offense. MSU punted from its own endzone and a 14-yard return by Flanagan allowed the Coyotes to set up shop at the MSU 46. Ganious notched runs of 10 and 14 yards to help South Dakota down to the eight-yard line, but the 10-play, 38-yard drive stalled and USD had to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Nowotny with 5:33 left in the second quarter.

Montana State countered with a scoring drive of its own in 13 plays and 63 yards. Kempt completed a 24-yard screen pass to running back Blayde Becksted and topped the drive off with a one-yard touchdown run by Palmer to go up 21-10 and take the lead in to halftime.

The Bobcats opened the second half with a nice drive before a botch snatch on third down forced MSU's Eric Fisher to attempt a 47-yard field goal. The kick went wide right and USD took over on its own 30. Shepard showcased his passing abilities on a 70-yard, nine-play scoring drive to cut the lead to 21-17 with 6:36 left in the third. He connected on a 34-yard pass to Flanagan on the first play of the drive to get the Coyotes in to MSU territory and after a MSU pass interference penalty, he hit freshman wide receiver Will Powell (Sioux Falls) for an 18-yard touchdown toss.

A series of punts by both sides lasted the rest of the third quarter and well in to the fourth, until Shepard found Flanagan in the middle of three MSU defenders for a completion. Flanagan broke a tackle and made his way down the right side of the field for the 52-yard touchdown with 3:19 left in the fourth. The seven-play, 80-yard drive put USD up 24-21.

Montana State crafted some last-minute offense of their own, though, as the Bobcats posted a 10-play, 66-yard drive to get to the USD four. The Coyote defense held on a third and one and forced MSU's Jason Cunningham to make a 21-yard field goal to tie the game at 24 apiece.

The Coyotes nearly ended the game in regulation thanks to Sims. He returned the kickoff 49 yards to midfield and Shepard connected with Skelly on a deep pass to the MSU 5. The pass was originally ruled a completion, but a huddle from the refs resulted in a call of incomplete and USD was unable to get into field goal range.

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