Two weeks ago, the University of South Dakota football team played top-ranked North Dakota State tight for two quarters before succumbing to the sheer class of the Bison in the second half.
Last weekend, the Coyotes were 15 minutes closer to victory after sezing control on the road against #11 Youngstown State through the opening three quarters, only to see a ten-point lead dissipate in a four-minute span at the start of the final interval of play.
Add in disappointing second half performances against Montana, Southern Illinois, and Northern Iowa, and it's easy to see that slow starts haven't been the issue in the Coyotes' search for their first win in the Missouri Valley Football Conference this season; it's been the finish. USD has been outscored by 90 points (170 to 80) in second halves this year, including being on the wrong side of a 94-44 scoreline in the 4th Quarter alone. Those are tough numbers to overlook, and they're even tougher to overcome.
To get their first win since September, that drop off post-haltime will need to change, and soon.
This Saturday, the Yotes host 3-6 Western Illinois, a team that's had just as much trouble playing a full sixty-minute game as they have. The Leathernecks led in the 4th Quarter against NDSU and Illinois State, the top two teams in the Valley this season, only to fall apart at the tail end of both contests.
Desite both teams' shortcomings in the final stages of games, there will be no shortage of play-making talent on the DakotaDome field this Saturday. USD's Jasper Sanders is coming off a 152 total-yard performance against Youngstown and has looked electric of late, while the Leathernecks have the conference's leader in total offense at quarterback in Trent Norvell, one of its best receivers in Lance Lenoir and a game-changer at running back in J.C. Baker.
It's likely that whichever side slows down the other in the second half will have the inside track on breaking their respective losing streaks, one that's stretched seven straight now for the Coyotes and two in a row for WIU.
USD was only 15 minutes away from finding a win last week in Ohio; they now have to find a way to turn three quarters of good football into four this Saturday.
For more on South Dakota's upcoming game this weekend against Western Illinois, check out the latest Coyote Corner Video Blog with Jay Elsen and I below.