By Jeremy Hoeck
Close losses have not been a rare occurrence for the USD football team.
Defensive performances like Saturday, Nov. 2, are, in short, rather uncommon.
What Youngstown State did to the Coyotes in a 38-34 Missouri Valley Football Conference victory was something no other team had done in the DakotaDome this season.
USD (4-5, 3-3) had allowed an average of 12 points and 213 yards in three games at home. Opponents had also only completed 31 percent on third down.
Youngstate State, however, rolled up 517 yards and were 9-of-15 on third down.
“That’s way too many,” USD senior cornerback Jarrid Bryant said. “We’ve been pretty consistent; that was probably the worst game we’ve played.”
The previous high for opposing offenses against the Coyote defense was 190 yards passing and 398 total yards — both at Northern Iowa.
Youngstown State eclipsed both Saturday, thanks to 283 yards passing from quarterback Kurt Hess.
“We’re better than that on defense,” USD head coach Joe Glenn said. “I think we’re all disappointed we couldn’t make some of those plays.”
The one scheme Glenn pointed to specifically in his post-game interview was the dive run by the Penguins. YSU ran 51 times for an average of 4.6 yards per carry, led by 131 yards and two touchdowns from freshman Martin Ruiz.
“We had practiced the veer dive all week,” Glenn said. “They down block and you have to slide down and you have to get the guy.
“We didn’t do a good job of that.”
The veteran coach also pointed to the same play Youngstown State ran in last season’s meeting in Ohio.
“We knew they were going to run it and we just didn’t get the dive shut down,” Glenn said.
The biggest drive of the game — the last one for the Penguins — proved to be the most damaging for the Coyotes. Hess was 3-of-4 with completions of 18, 10 and 15 yards, and YSU was helped by a USD 15-yard late hit out of bounds penalty.
Asked about that last drive, Coyote senior linebacker Tyler Starr, who had one of USD’s four sacks on the day, called the defense “soft.”
“I thought maybe we could have attacked them more,” Starr said. “You can’t let a quarterback like that sit back there and let it open up.
“When it came to it, their offense out-played our defense.”
Playoff Chances All But Over
With Youngstown State handing USD its fifth loss of the season, the Coyotes are all but out of FCS playoff contention.
And the players were aware of that after Saturday’s game.
“Probably one of the worst, just because it’s most likely going to knock us out of a playoff shot,” Starr said when asked later where the loss ranks.
North Dakota State and Youngstown State, both at 5-0 in the Missouri Valley, are viewed as already in the post-season field, with the third team still up for grabs.
Illinois State and Missouri State both moved to 4-2 in league play with wins Saturday, while USD comes next at 3-3.
“This will be a hard one to swallow,” Glenn said. “We’ll play hard, they’ll practice hard, that’s the kind of team we are, but we had to win this one.”
Still, the Coyotes can’t look at it like their season is shot, Bryant said. USD hosts No. 12 Montana next Saturday.
“We have three games left, we still have a chance,” he said. “We can’t think ahead. We’ll clean this up, especially defensively.
“We’ll put this aside and come back hungry.”
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