BY JEREMY HOECK
If you watch the official video on YouTube of a song entitled “Can You Stand The Rain” by the band New Edition, you’ll see it has over 12 million views.
And it’s a safe bet a good number of those views are from the players and coaches with the University of South Dakota women’s basketball program.
The song was an idea head coach Amy Williams had for a kind of team theme song for the 2014-15 season — that is, until she found out the song was released in 1988, which meant none of her players knew it.
Still, the title of the tune seemed to fit the Coyotes.
“Last year was a lesson for us. The storms came,” Williams said Wednesday at Yankton Quarterback Club, where she was the featured speaker.
On their way to a Summit League tournament championship last season, the Coyotes had their share of obstacles to overcome.
Among those: A season-ending knee injury to starter Heidi Hoff, followed by an ankle injury to standout Niocle Seekamp, who would miss five games early in the conference season. And then there was an 0-4 start to that league schedule, forcing the Coyotes to have to dig out of an early hole.
“That would have been a really good time for us to crumble and fold,” Williams said. “But our girls never did, they stayed together.”
Once Seekamp returned to the lineup and returned to her dominant ways, she helped the Coyotes win seven of their final nine league games, and played a key role in USD winning the Summit League tournament title.
Having gone through those issues — while still reaching the NCAA Tournament, where USD lost to Stanford — only helps the Coyotes this season, Williams said.
“We know there are going to be some storms that come this year as well, but how well do you handle that?” she said. “That shows your true character.”
So far this season, it’s been nothing but smooth sailing for the Coyotes (7-2).
They dropped an 8-point game at Kansas — Williams said the program was a little disappointed it didn’t win that one — and then lost by 14 at Washington. The biggest win to date was a road win at Marquette, of the Big East Conference.
The Coyotes return to action Thursday night when they host NAIA University of Saint Mary, located in Leavenworth, Kansas — more famously known for the federal prison. The Spires are 2-9 this season under second-year head coach Bruce Erickson, who has past experience at Oklahoma State and Kansas City.
BY JEREMY HOECK
Jason Petrino had the unenviable task in August of scheming for Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and then watching game film of Mariota slicing through Petrino’s defense.
Not exactly enjoyable on either account for Petrino, the defensive coordinator at the University of South Dakota.
What did Petrino see on film after the third-ranked Ducks thrashed the Coyotes 62-13 back on Aug. 30 in Eugene?
“You were just thankful you didn’t have to see that talent again,” Petrino joked Monday.
As it turns out, USD that night was facing the eventual Heisman Trophy winner.
Mariota, a projected first-round NFL prospect, was awarded Saturday night the Heisman Trophy as the top college football player in the country — he received the second-highest percentage (90.9) of points in the award’s history.
For the team he faced in the 2014 season opener, it was a rare first-hand glimpse at college football’s elite talent.
Not only was USD playing its first-ever game against a top-5 FBS opponent, it may have marked the only time in Missouri Valley Football Conference history that a member school faced the eventual Heisman winner — preliminary research didn’t reveal any other examples.
“Any time you play an Alabama or a Florida State, or anyone in the top four, all of those kids are just so much better than anyone you’ll ever see,” Petrino said.
Against the Coyotes, Mariota completed 14-of-20 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns in one half of action — with his Ducks up 41-13.
That trip to Eugene wasn’t exactly a ‘business trip’ in the sense that USD was expecting to potentially compete if everything went its way. It was more of an opportunity to see that level, and to bring home a $525,000 check.
Players and coaches decked out in red that night raved later about Mariota’s performance.
“I told someone after the game, ‘You might be seeing him in New York (for the Heisman ceremony),’” Petrino said. “He’s pretty special, you could just see it.”
During that trip to Eugene, USD realized the extent to which Mariota’s exploits went beyond the Autzen Stadium field, Petrino said. One such — now well-told — story tells it that Mariota routinely stops to give homeless people food and water on his way home from practice.
“He was always gifted as a football player, but the things you’re hearing more about are how good of a person he is,” Petrino said.
When it comes to slinging the ball, Mariota has also gotten it done.
With the inaugural college football playoff remaining, he has completed 68 percent of his passes this season for 3,783 yards and 38 touchdowns, with only two interceptions in 372 throws.
“When he is playing, it’s almost effortless,” Petrino said. “He’s so calm and in control. He’s so comfortable in that offense.”
Petrino, though, couldn’t help but sound like a defensive coach. He pointed to Oregon’s one loss this season, a home defeat to Arizona, is one area where any team could have success against a touted quarterback — in that loss, Mariota was sacked five times.
“When Oregon struggled, they were banged up up front, and if you can get pressure on a quarterback, even Mariota, it changes his world quite a bit,” Petrino said.
The Coyotes, though, were unique in their pursuit of getting to a quarterback like Mariota.
Part of that is because, put simply, Missouri Valley teams don’t often face top-5 FBS programs.
League teams are 37-223 all-time against FBS teams, including wins this season by North Dakota State (over Iowa State) and Indiana State (over Ball State). Valley teams also played Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Northwestern, Oklahoma State, Purdue and Wisconsin.
Western Illinois also came close to facing a potential Heisman winner. The Leathernecks played against Badgers standout running back Melvin Gordon (the Heisman runner-up) back in September, losing 37-3.
You can follow Jeremy Hoeck on Twitter at twitter.com/jhoeck. Discuss this story at http://www.yankton.net.
BY JEREMY HOECK
While speaking in Yankton back in January, Joey James told the crowd at Yankton Quarterback Club that his Coyotes would be playing Stanford and Creighton the following season.
He didn’t know it at the time, but James was talking about two NCAA Tournament teams.
The new-look University of South Dakota men’s basketball team, now coached by Craig Smith, gave Stanford — a Sweet 16 participant last season — a solid run three weeks, falling 84-73 out in California.
Now comes the Bluejays.
The Coyotes (3-6) travel to Omaha, Nebraska on Tuesday night for an 8:15 p.m. nationally-televised game against Creighton — another NCAA Tournament team from last season, having reached the third round.
It’s been four years since Creighton and USD met on the basketball court, and put simply, a lot has changed on either side.
The last meeting was the 2010 CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT) down in Omaha, with Creighton — then led by coach Dana Altman — winning by 11. The Coyotes, of course, were coached by Dave Boots, who resigned prior to the 2013-14-season — replaced by James for one season.
A season ago, Creighton went 27-6 behind eventual Player of the Year Doug McDermott and was sent home by Baylor in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Head coach Greg McDermott had to replace four starters, but his Bluejays are off to a 7-2 start.
Among their early non-conference wins this season, the Bluejays beat then-No. 18 ranked Oklahoma and Nebraska on Sunday night. Senior guard Austin Chatman paces Creighton, having started every game since the start of his sophomore season. Among the starters for the Bluejays is sophomore forward Zach Hanson, a former standout at Pierre. He averages 5.6 points and 3.4 rebounds, and made his first career start against Nebraska.
The Coyotes, meanwhile, saw a 3-game win streak snapped by Youngstown State last Friday night. South Dakota, with eight newcomers, is getting 57 percent of its scoring from three guards — Brandon Bos (16.3 ppg), Tyler Larson (15.1) and Casey Kasperbauer (10.1).
How those three fare will ultimately determine how the Coyotes perform against the Bluejays, but USD is still looking for consistent play out of its post players. Senior newcomer James Hunter is averaging 3.6 points and 2.6 rebounds in only 11.1 minutes of action, while redshirt freshman reserve Austin Sparks has provided 3.1 points in 12.9 minutes off the bench.
The Coyotes, though, are significantly more athletic than they were last season, mostly through the addition of newcomers like Tre Burnette (6.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg), D.J. Davis (1.7 ppg, 1.6 rpg), Duol Mayot (1.4 ppg, 1.7 rpg). You could make a stronger case, however, that Larson is to this point the team’s best player. He is averaging 7.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists to go along with his 15.1 points.
Tuesday night’s game between the Coyotes and Bluejays will be televised by FOX Sports 1, which is available regionally.
BY JEREMY HOECK
University of South Dakota athletic director David Herbster made clear Wednesday that no, football coach Joe Glenn is not going anywhere, and yes, certain things need to be addressed.
Herbster was in Yankton on Wednesday to speak at the Yankton Quarterback Club luncheon, and spent the first five minutes of his 30-minute conversation talking about the state of the football program. The Coyotes went 2-10 this past season, including 0-8 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference — their second winless league season in three years.
Following his speech, Herbster sat down with the Press & Dakotan for a candid chat about the football program.
During your speech, you talked about Joe Glenn’s commitment to staying on to “finish this out.”
He is committed. Joe’s a national championship coach, and he knows what he’s doing. This hasn’t been easy on him and certainly hasn’t been easy on the staff. He doesn’t like to lose, I don’t like to lose; we both want to win. If you look at the squad, we return starters at every single position. The player development and the future of the program is in the kids. If you look at what we’ve got coming back, wow, that side is promising. We always say, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’ You’d have to look back at our record before Joe got here and where the wins and losses came from. And then really take a look at where we’re winning and losing now. It doesn’t help that you’re trying to build a program in the toughest conference in the country.
That’s part of the challenge, isn’t it? Having to build a program in a league with seven ranked teams, five who went to the playoffs.
Absolutely. Getting the traction, getting the recruits in here, playing your system, and being healthy. Let’s be honest. You start the season 2-2, go into a bye week, still fairly healthy, lose at Southern Illinois, and that’s when guys started getting hurt. Everybody gets moved around. And we haven’t developed our depth yet. Our starting center the last few games had never started a game before in his life. It really kind of pinballed back and forth. But you’ve got to be committed to what you know is right, and what the integrity and character of the coach you’ve got, and there’s no question of that with Joe. There have been a lot of conversations that start, ‘You’re 2-10, there has to be change.’ If you change it right now, you set the program back even further. You want to let the maturity and progress continue.
You talked about there being fewer distractions with the program, fewer off-the-field issues. How important was not having some of those things to worry about?
The only distraction we had was losing. When you look at this team at the end of the year, you didn’t have a ton of finger pointing. You didn’t have a ton of drama. You almost wish there was, that you’d have leaders within that group that would step up and challenge everybody. That’s what we need. That’s got to come from within. The players need to look within themselves and don’t be afraid to lead.
Does that come with experience?
It’s a learned trait, it really is. Some are just natural at it, and others it has to be learned. You’d like to thinks your captains would have that about them, and if not, we need to teach them. Take it on your shoulders, that’s what it’s all about.
Are there plans to address the financial support for the football staff, whether salary or added positions?
It will get addressed, it has to be. It’s two-fold. It’s the number of full-time assistants we have; when you don’t have as much as everybody else, you’re asking younger more experienced individuals to do more with less. You’re asking a 24-year-old to act like a 34-year-old and make some of those calls or judgments. And frankly, so does our head coaching salary. It’s the lowest in the league. Missouri State and Youngstown State are looking for a coach, and I’ve got to believe Missouri State is going to up the ante. They were the lowest and then they passed us, and we took the badge of honor. That has to change. Those are the things you ask these guys to do, to be the coaches and mentors for these players. I love our guys to death. I don’t question their work ethic or abilities or knowledge, but there’s just less of them. Those are things we will address. The things we’re doing isn’t like Indiana trying to catch up with Michigan. The gap isn’t so daunting that we can’t manage it. And as soon as you or I win the lottery, it gets done a lot quicker.
BY JEREMY HOECK
If you ask Joe Glenn, records have to be thrown out the window for Saturday’s rivalry game in Brookings.
The football coach at the University of South Dakota is familiar enough with these games — as both a former player and now a third-year head coach for the Coyotes — to know what can happen.
“It makes no difference,” Glenn said during Tuesday’s Missouri Valley teleconference, previewing Saturday’s showdown with South Dakota State. “I’ve seen it both ways. I’ve seen their team not having such a great year and the Coyotes having a great year, and the Jacks win.
“Anything can happen in a State-U game.”
What needs to happen for the Coyotes (2-9, 0-7), at least, is something positive. They’ve lost their last 11 league games dating back to last season, and are in danger of going winless in conference play for the second time in three years.
“In perfect order, number one, we’re looking for a win,” Glenn said. “That’s the most important thing right now for us. We need a win.
“To close our season down with a victory is exactly what we need to springboard us on and give us a little hope.”
Doing so won’t be easy against the No. 16-ranked Jackrabbits (7-4, 4-3), who themselves need a win, but for different reasons — they’re still in the FCS playoff hunt.
That point was again driven home by SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier, who repeated Tuesday that his team is looking forward to the game but has long-term goals.
As to the game with the Coyotes, though, Stiegelmeier said USD’s record probably doesn’t do the team justice.
“They’ve been in position to win games, and coach Glenn’s answered the question, they haven’t gotten it done,” Stiegelmeier said. “It’s not because they’re not a good football team not because they’re not well-coached, it’s the cards they’ve been dealt.”
One of the cards USD will be dealt Saturday will be cold conditions, as the afternoon temperature is forecasted in the mid-30s.
Is the weather a concern?
No, said Glenn, whose team will practice outside all week.
“We’re all guys from Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa or Minnesota, we don’t have many guys that are silver spooners,” he said.
The only concern — a mystery, really — is the field conditions at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium, which is always an issue this time of the year.
“It’s hard to tell what kind of footing we’ll have,” said Glenn, who referenced uncertainty about what cleats his players will wear. “It was a mess for last Saturday’s game, we watched that over and over, and thought the Rabbits did a great job maneuvering around on that.”
If there would be an advantage SDSU has, it would be that, Stiegelmeier said: The Jacks played — and won — in those conditions.
“There’s no doubt, the fact that we won on this very field, I think psychologically gets rid of that ‘what if’ type of deal,” he said.
Snow or not, the Coyotes are faced with another psychological battle Saturday: They haven’t won a game played outdoors since 2010.
“I don’t attribute it to anything,” Glenn said. “We don’t win outdoors because we’re not playing good enough, that’s why.”