By Justin Rust
Waverly (Iowa) Newspapers
The last time the University of South Dakota football team won a road game was against Big Ten opponent Minnesota, which was three years ago.
Since then, the Coyotes have suffered numerous heartbreakers — until Saturday.
The Coyotes traveled to face traditional Missouri Valley Football Conference power Northern Iowa, which was ranked 11th in the latest FCS poll, and scored a 38-31 double overtime win Saturday night in Cedar Falls.
After the Panthers got up 28-7 in the second half, it seemed like the same swan song for the Coyotes. But after freshman Riley Donovan tipped a pass to himself and found the end zone, USD had new life.
Another great catch by Terrance Terry in the end zone with 5 seconds left forced overtime.
The two teams traded field goals in the first overtime before the Coyotes scored on a Kevin Earl sneak in the second and held UNI scoreless on the next possession.
The result was a sea of red charging from USD’s sideline as the string of tough road losses was snapped.
“We are going to float on a magic carpet ride back to Vermillion,” USD coach Joe Glenn said. “(UNI) had it gift wrapped, but our kids didn’t believe it and though they could pull it off.”
UNI started the season with a 4-0 record and seemed to be far removed from last year’s disappointing 5-6 campaign. The last three weeks have proved otherwise, though, with the Panthers falling a play or two short and are now 0-3 in the MVFC.
“We didn’t make plays down the stretch in some of these games and it’s been the difference,” UNI coach Mark Farley said. “All we have to do is make plays. Plays that could be made on that field.
“South Dakota did a nice job and fought their way back into it. We didn’t make plays.”
The victory moves the Coyotes into unprecedented territory. It is their third straight MVFC win and the Coyotes are 3-1 in the conference,which is well ahead of UNI.
“We are good as anyone in the conference, period,” USD defensive back Jarrid Bryant said.
Bryant isn’t the only USD player who isn’t surprised the Coyotes are making an early move in one of the strongest conferences in FCS.
“We can compete with anyone,” USD defensive back Devin Taverna said. “No one is scared and we are not going to back down from anyone and we have proved it.”
For Glenn, the loss takes a big monkey off him and the team’s back with all of the road woes throughout the years.
He seemed like a proud papa during the press conference, too.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our team,” he said. “They showed a lot of courage and heart. They showed it the last couple of games. Showed it to the max. We dug ourselves a real big whole, but we fought and they stepped up.”
The second of two bad punt snaps on the day gave the Panthers the ball at the USD 14 late in the third quarter. David Johnson needed just three plays to put the Panthers up 28-7 on a 7-yard run with 5:54 left.
While the Coyotes could have just accepted things weren’t going their way, they put the punts behind them and Earl threw a pass to Donovan, which he juggled and tipped to himself, and he took it in for a 43-yard score with 3:20 left in the third quarter.
UNI seemed to get things under control in the fourth quarter when Makinton Dorleant intercepted Earl’s pass. But the Coyotes got the ball back two plays later when Bryant picked off Kollmorgen after receiver Kevin Vereen fell down.
USD took over at the 38-yard line and scored four plays later on a quarterback draw by Earl from 8-yards out. USD trailed 28-21 with with 11:26 left.
USD had a chance with 5:42 remaining after Taverna picked off Kollmorgen and USD drove to the UNI 15. Bouma, who rushed for 149 yards on the day, rushed to the 8-yard line on second down, but two straight incompletions, including one by Tyler Wilhelm in the end zone on fourth down, gave UNI the ball back with 3:03 remaining.
The Panthers did all they could to drain the clock, but faced 4th-and-3 at their own 15 and punted. USD took over at its own 42 and Earl, who passed for 370 yards, hit Wilhelm for 18 yards. Then he found Josh Vander Maten for 24 and a pass interference put it at the UNI 4.
Bouma rushed for a yard, but the next two passes were incomplete to set up fourth-and-goal at the 3-yard line with 8 seconds left.
Earl dropped back and Chris Jepsen got through and was draped on the quarterback, who broke free, scrambled left and hit Terrance Terry for the score.
Bergner made the extra point and USD forced overtime.
The Panthers drove to the USD 10-yard line in the first overtime, but had to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Sievertsen.
USD got to the UNI 6-yard line, but also settled for a 23-yarder from Bergner for a second extra period.
The Coyotes opened with the ball in the second overtime, drove to the 1-yard line and scored on Earl’s quarterback sneak for the 38-31 lead.
UNI drove to the USD 13 and got it to the 6, but on third-and-3, Tyler Starr pressured Kollmorgen, who had to throw the ball away. On the fourth down play, Kollmorgen was sacked by Emilious Davis to give USD the win.
“You can see our confidence, it’s rising and they think they can touch gloves with any heavyweight,” Glenn said. “And they did it.”