Bison Behind, Penguins Ahead for USD

If you look at the numbers behind USD football's loss this weekend against North Dakota State, it's not surprising that few are favorable in the Yotes' direction.

The Coyotes were more than doubled-up in total yardage (524 to 243), surrendered nearly 300 yards on the ground, were a minus-three in the turnover battle, and lost the game by 40 points, their largest defeat to an FCS school this season.

And yet...

I know it's hollow to sound glass half-full after the team's fourth consecutive double-digit loss, and no, the final score doesn't flatter NDSU in the least, but if I'm Joe Glenn et al, I feel much better after this showing than the Yotes' performance two weeks against at Missouri State.

For one thing, USD made it to the final whistle without losing a key player to a season-ending injury, something they haven't been able to do very often this month. As thin as this team is at certain positions - not to mention how physical a team the BIson are - the importance of them staying healthy in this contest and in the games ahead can't be understated.

For another, the defense showed resiliency on several occasions in the first half, stopping NDSU deep in Coyote territory twice and holding them to field goals to keep the game within reach. Eventually, the power of the Bison front, their quality at running back and the lack of sustained drives from the Yote offense allowed the "flood gates to open", as Joe Glenn put it on Monday, but the D certainly held their own against strong opposition during the opening two quarters.  

The USD offense didn't put up big numbers by any stretch, but they did find a way to move the ball against the best defense in the country, even if most drives would stall more often than not, normally just outside of field goal range. The one drive that did not stall provided USD with considerable momentum, as a Kevin Earl-to-Riley Donovan 10-yard TD pass put the Yotes less than a minute away from reaching halftime only trailing 20-7.

Looking back, the ensuing 37-yard drive Carson Wentz and Co. put together with 34 seconds left in the half to set up Adam Keller's 49-yard field goal was more deflating than it appeared at the time, while the Nick DeLuca interception of Earl on the third play of the second half more or less punctured the Coyote sails for good. Much like USD's MVFC season opener against Southern Illinois game, the first 30 minutes were close, though the same couldn't be said for the second half-hour.

With all that said, this loss - and USD's previous three losses, for that matter - might as well be ancient history for this Coyote team.

This is a new week, with a new nationally-ranked Valley opponent on deck in #13 Youngstown State, and any lingering thoughts on the failings of previous outings can't surface once the plane touches down in Ohio Friday afternoon. Even though the road woes of the Coyotes have been well-documented - USD is 1-24 outside the Dakota Dome in their last 25 games - South Dakota has played the Penguins close in the past two seasons, losing by three and by four points respectively, and the third time could pay all come Saturday.

If the Yotes can take it one step further against the Penguins this season, the numbers that really matter - those on the final scoreboard - might finally turn in their favor.

For more on USD's matchup with Youngstown, check out our latest Coyote Corner Video Blog below: