Vets dominate USD spring game

Even with so many young players seeing extended time, the usual suspects led the way.

Junior running back Marcus Sims (32) evades a group of defensive teammates for a first-quarter touchdown in Thursday night's spring game at the DakotaDome. (Royal McGregor/P&D)

Plagued by injuries all spring, the University of South Dakota offense still rolled up nearly 400 yards of total offense in yet another dominating victory against its defensive counterparts.

The result was a 63-22 win in Thursday nights spring game at the DakotaDome.

Beyond just the score, the Coyotes were able to overcome the absence of 17 players from injury to close the spring season on a positive note heading into the fall.

Its starting to wear on me a little bit. We had a lot of kids get hurt this spring, and that gets aggravating for the kids, head coach Ed Meierkort said. It puts stress on your other players who have to now take a ton of reps.

Yet it was still the experienced guys who propelled the offense.

Despite scoring only two touchdowns and two field goals, the Coyote red squad recorded more than its share of big plays in that format that awards points for specific outcomes.

We just have a lot of guys back all over the place, senior wide receiver Dustin Nowotny said. The only position we really lost anybody was at tight end, so we have pretty much the whole offense back.

And that really helps with chemistry.

In all, USD returns 19 starters nine on offense from last years 4-7 season, the first losing campaign under eighth-year coach Meierkort.

One of the few newcomers to the offense Anthony Williams, a sophomore transfer from Troy.

With starting receivers Will Powell and Tom Flanagan out with injuries, Williams emerged as a big-play threat for quarterback Dante Warren.

It all comes from continuous reps. Reps, reps, reps, said Williams, who had three catches for 41 yards. Coach stresses a lot about finishing, so we had a lot of situation drills in practice. Now we just have to make it happen.

When weve got a good position, we cant waste it.

The offense rushed for 148 yards and a pair of touchdowns, both coming in the first half. Junior Marcus Sims led the way with 30 yards on the ground, despite not being expected to play.

Avon native Earv Archambeau, a sophomore, got the most carries (8) and ran for 23 yards. Sophomore Michael Burrus added 29 yards and a score, while leading rusher Chris Ganious ran three times for 25 yards.

We have five running backs, and the only one who didnt see any time was Donovan Bowens, who has an elbow problem but will be fine, Meierkort said. I didnt think Marcus would play, but he wanted to play bad.

We got him some reps and then gave some of the young guys some touches.

The offense went 3-and-out on the games first series, but got things figured out on the second scoring the first touchdown on a Sims short run.

Burrus later shed a few tackles up the middle for a 23-yard touchdown in the second quarter, pushing the offense ahead 35-7.

Another area that has developed over the spring for the offense is the emergence of redshirt freshman Josh Vander Maten a walk-on last year as the new back-up to Warren.

Vander Maten, who went 2-for-5 passing with 57 yards, came in the game midway through the second quarter and split time with Warren from there. He showed why the coaches have been raving about his production this spring, displaying an accurate arm and an ability to break tackles in the open field.

In one series in the third quarter, he hit Nowotny in stride for a 37-yard pass play, and later rushed ahead for a nice 10-yard gain.

He played pretty well overall, I thought, Nowotny said. He missed a couple of throws, but its first game since high school. Its been a year, but I think hell be OK once he gets into a rhythm.

Despite not recording a takeaway, the defense recorded a total of four sacks helping the final tally of 22 points.

Sophomore defensive back Aaron Swift led the way with seven tackles, while sophomore linebacker Kelan Richardson added five.

Asked later about the defensive line, which has been an area of emphasis all spring, Meierkort said he felt the game-plan by offensive coordinator Wes Beschorner helped neutralize the line.

We didnt pressure the passer very well, Meierkort said. Dante is pretty elusive, and Wesley was pretty smart getting him on the perimeter early. Once he gets out there, hell be a headache.

When our No. 1s were in there, we handled the run game pretty well.

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