Coyotes upset No. 1 Eastern Washington

South Dakota quarterback Dante Warren, left, gets past an Eastern Washington defender for a touchdown during the first half of the Saturdays game in the DakotaDome. See more photos at (Photo by David Lias)

Another mid-September afternoon and another program-defining victory.

This time, though, the University of South Dakota football team picked on someone its own size.

Nearly a year to the day after beating Minnesota, USD pulled another upset in beating No. 1 and defending national champion Eastern Washington 30-17 in front of a loud DakotaDome crowd Saturday afternoon, Sept. 10.

Though, make no mistake, this one means more, according to Coyote head coach Ed Meierkort.

"Honestly, this is a bigger win for us," Meierkort said. "This is the level we're supposed to be at. They won a national title and are the number one team in the country, and it doesn't get any bigger.

"The Minnesota thing was cool for all the alumni, the fanfare and the checkbook, but we are an FCS team now to be reckoned with," he added. "We can play with anybody in the country and we proved it today."

Not only did the Coyotes (1-1) beat the Big Sky Conference powerhouse, they kept the pressure on one of the best offensive units in the nation.

USD pulled ahead 21-0 in the second quarter on an interception return for a touchdown by senior safety Jim Thompson, capping off a first half completely dominated by the Coyote defense.

"One thing at practice we tried to work on was to come out with a lot of energy, go out and have fun," Thompson said. "We've got a bunch of seniors, and we came together and said Thursday's practice was a lot of fun, we need to bring that to the field.

"And we brought it and came out successful."

Though the Coyotes had two touchdowns called back on penalties in the third quarter and though EWU got within 24-17, USD kept the upset intact.

Both times the Eagles (0-2) scored in the third quarter, the Coyotes responded with a field goal proof that they lived up to the challenge.

"From the time we got off the plane at Air Force (last week), all we talked about was winning this football game. I knew these guys could do it," Meierkort said. "They needed to do this on their own.

"We had to take the training wheels off and send the young man down the hill and see how he did," he added. "They played warp speed with their hair on fire, and did some fantastic things."

The Coyotes got on the scoreboard first on a 2-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Dante Warren midway through the first quarter.

With the Eagles not getting anything done on offense themselves, USD added to its lead early in the second quarter. Jeremy Blount caught a 48-yard touchdown pass from Warren to put the Coyotes ahead 14-0.

Blount, a senior receiver and kick returner, equated playing EWU to a 2008 home contest against rival North Dakota.

"It feels very good. It was one of the first times a big game was like this, since we came up short to North Dakota," he said. "All during practice we knew those linebackers and safeties couldn't match up with me speed-wise.

"It just feels real good, because we worked so hard."

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