With both teams already eliminated from postseason contention, there doesn't seem to be much at stake for Saturday's showdown between USD (1-4, 0-2 MVFC) and Missouri State (0-6, 0-3 MVFC). Just don't tell that to the Coyotes.
They need this game.
After consecutive close losses to then No. 12 Illinois State and Western Illinois - which marks the first time USD has dropped back-to-back games at the DakotaDome since 2003 - this team has reached rock bottom. The Coyotes feel like they should have won both games. And they might have, had they not, as head coach Joe Glenn likes to say, "shot their toes off."
It's been one thing after another. Penalties, punt blocks, turnovers, drops and other miscues have all contributed to the team's early season struggles, particularly over the last two weeks. It's why the Coyotes are 1-4 instead of 3-3.
That brings us to Saturday.
Missouri State isn't your typical 0-6 team. Aside from a pair of lopsided losses at FBS foes Kansas State and Louisville to start the season, the Bears have been competitive in every game they've played. Like the Coyotes, it's their own mistakes that have been their undoing.
The Bears have turned it over 19 times (13 INT, 6 Fumbles Lost) in their six games, compared to nine for their opponents. Couple that with their league-low 11.5 points per game and it's pretty easy to see why they're winless.
The Coyotes, in my opinion, are the better team. But that wasn't enough last week. They have to figure out a way to clean up the things they control. If they do, I think they get the win. If they don't, it will be another tough loss and a long bus ride home.
Oh, and the "easiest" part of their schedule will be behind them.