It's not difficult to imagine how tough the return bus trip from Springfield to Vermillion was for the University of South Dakota football team last Saturday night. The 31-12 loss to Missouri State - the Yotes' third straight MVFC defeat this season - was a sobering experience for a squad that had fallen just short in weeks previous against stronger teams than the Bears.
If you look at the numbers, USD wasn't blown off the field against MSU; they picked up more first downs than their hosts, averaged 5.2 yards per rush and 189 total rushing yards in the contest, and stopped the Bears on eight of their ten third-down conversion attempts.
But with that said, the Bears were more or less in control from the outset, and the game was all but over shortly after halftime. MO State's defense bent at times but never broke, limiting Kevin Earl to short reads near the line of scrimmage, eliminating all big plays and keeping USD out of the end zone until late in the 3rd Quarter. Meanwhile, the Bear offense gashed the Yotes on big scoring plays of 53 yards and 29 yards through the air, while Bear quarterback Kierra Harris led all players with 90 yards rushing and 242 total yards, despite only going 9-for-20 in the passing game.
Compounding matters, it was a brutal game on the medical front for South Dakota. How bad? The Yotes lost a starting player to a game-ending injury once every ten minutes last Saturday, with halfback Trevor Bouma (broken radius) and right tackle Derek Chancellor (broken leg) both now confirmed to be finished for the season.
USD can't dwell on their losses on the scoreboard and in personnel, however, as up next, they host undefeated and top-ranked North Dakota State. The Bison's success against the Coyotes in recent years is well-documented - in case you needed a reminder, the Yotes have dropped their previous two meetings by a combined 96-0 scoreline - and optimism around Coyote Nation can't be high going into this contest.
And yet, more than any other sport, college football is all about upsets and emotion. Doing the impossible. Shocking the world.
Going into a David v. Goliath matchup like this, that belief has to exist in the USD locker room this weekend.
If there was ever a time to "Rise Up", as the Coyotes' motto states this year, this Saturday would be it.
For more on the state of USD football and their matchup against the Bison, check out Jay Elsen and I in our latest Coyote Corner Video Blog below.