BY JEREMY HOECK
The location will change to Vermillion (for the first time in 10 years), but the one key battle cry for the USD football team in preparation for Saturday’s showdown with SDSU is spoiler.
Themselves out of contention for the FCS post-season, the Coyotes (4-6) can only prevent the Jackrabbits (6-4) from returning to the playoffs.
It’s simple, really: SDSU wins, it remains alive. SDSU loses, its post-season push is all but over with five losses.
And don’t think the USD players and coaching staff doesn’t realize that. That would be the carrot at the end of the stick for this game — a chance to ruin your rival’s playoff dream.
It wasn’t long ago, though, that the Coyotes had those same dreams.
Two weeks ago, both teams were in the same 4-4 predicament: They each had to win out — the Coyotes got to that point having won three of four, while the Jacks were going in the opposite direction, losers in three of four.
Their paths then changed direction: USD lost consecutive home games to the No. 10 team in the country (losing leads each time in the final two minutes). SDSU, meanwhile, scored a pair of home wins to right the ship.
The Jackrabbits have two games remaining (from USD they go to Youngstown State). A win in Vermillion followed by another in Ohio would likely get SDSU into the post-season. For what’s it worth, the Sports Network projects SDSU into the field. And at 8-4, the Jacks would own wins over two likely post-season teams (SE Louisiana and Youngstown) and would boast a top-20 rating in the Gridiron Power Index — the top indicator for at-large selection.
(h/t for SDSU radio friend Tyler Merriam for the help on that part….)
And that sets the stage for Saturday in Vermillion.
With the only remaining “first” for the renewed Division I series being a return to the DakotaDome, it’s the actual football that matters now.
I’ll dive deeper into the matchups later in the week.
BY JEREMY HOECK
Joe Glenn, normally giddy and charismatic, has been uncharacteristically short on words each of the past two Saturday afternoons.
And with good reason.
His USD football team saw a late lead evaporate in home losses to top-10 opponents, last Saturday 38-34 to Youngstown State and Saturday 31-27 to Montana.
In both cases, the Coyotes held a 3-point lead with under three minutes to play. And lost.
Even with all those close losses over the past two seasons, it can naturally be hard to explain just how tough they are — as evident by what Glenn said during his post-game press conference Saturday. It was almost as if he was alone in the room, talking to himself; not really at anybody.
“Just a horrible loss; I can’t even qualify how bad it is. It’s just a shame because it should have never happened.”
Because in each game, in each final stretch of the fourth quarter, USD committed mistakes. Self-inflicted wounds in crunch time that provided the difference from a high-profile win and a deflating loss.
A look at those crucial mistakes:
• Against Youngstown State: USD was flagged for a personal foul penalty on a late hit out of bounds on the Penguins’ final drive. YSU eventually scored the game-winning touchdown.
• Against Montana, USD’s Trevor Bouma fumbled with 6:33 left and his team up 24-17. Matt Hermanson of the Grizzlies returned the fumble 35 yards for a touchdown.
• Up 27-24 with 1:48 to play, the Coyotes kicked the ball to Montana’s top returner Ellis Henderson who had little trouble getting through the USD special teams for a 98-yard touchdown.
It almost gets to the point where you wonder, ‘What else can go wrong?’ USD has corrected many of the mistakes that propped up throughout the season — namely long snapper and kicking (Miles Bergner hasn’t missed the last two weeks).
But just then, something else arises. Bouma, despite playing through injury, has been steady carrying the ball this season. He ran 25 times for 147 yards Saturday, but on one carry, the ball is poked away.
Something like that could have happened in the first quarter or in a game that was already in hand for the Coyotes, and it would have been a minor story; likely not mentioned at all. But the fact that these mistakes have happened in crunch time really magnifies them.
Along the same line, USD could have allowed a 98-yard kick return for a touchdown on, say, the second kickoff of the game and probably survived to win. But allowing such a return when they did was a big let-down for the Coyotes.
And so, taking into account all those mistakes, you can understand why Glenn doesn’t know what to say anymore. His team has competed with and nearly beaten some of the top teams in the country, but they’ve still lost.
That is the next step for the program. Remaining competitive but picking up those wins. Finding a way to beat Northern Arizona (a 6-point loss), finding a way to beat Western Illinois (a 14-point loss), digging deep to beat a Youngstown State or a Montana.
Because, ultimately, this is not the way USD wanted to head into game week with South Dakota State. Not when added attention will be paid to the Coyotes. Not when a sellout crowd is preparing to crowd into the DakotaDome.
Next Saturday doesn’t need any extra story lines. But now the spoiler role isn’t the only motivator for the Coyotes. No, they’ll be more focused on winning. Just finding a win to win, no matter who it comes against.
We are down to the semifinals in South Dakota, with the big schools today (Friday) and 11A, 11B and 9-man on Saturday. These winners will be in the DakotaDome next week, and we will have previews and coverage of all 7 games — and State-U.
With that, here is who I think we’ll be covering next week:
Class 11AAA: Lincoln (over O’Gorman), Roosevelt (over BV)
Class 11AA: Yankton (over Watertown), Pierre (over Harrisburg)
Class 11A: Madison (over Dell Rapids), West Central (over Hot Springs)
Class 11B: St. Thomas More (over Parkston), Winner (over Canton)
Class 9AA: BEE (over Gregory), Arlington (over Deubrook)
Class 9A: Leola-Frederick (over Wolsey-Wessington), Howard (over Potter County)
Class 9B: Avon (over Wall), Harding County (over Hamlin)
My upset picks were Harding County, Bridgewater-Emery-Ethan and, of course, Yankton. Didn’t pick Deubrook, but that pick scares me a little. The Yankton pick scares me a little, too, as Watertown is a much-improved team since the last meeting.
Think I’m right? Think I’m full of it? Comment here or tweet at @JCimburek to give your opinion.
I will be on with John Thayer Monday at 10:30 am (1570 AM or kvtk.com) to talk about my SD and Nebraska picks for Monday and Wednesday. Here are my “winners:”
Class 11A: Madison (over Vermillion), Dell Rapids, Hot Springs, West Central
Class 11B: Winner, Aberdeen Roncalli, St. Thomas More, Parkston
Class 9AA: Gregory (over Menno-Marion), Bridgewater-Emery-Ethan, Arlington, Kimball-White Lake
Class 9A: Leola-Frederick, Alcester-Hudson, Howard, Herreid-Selby Area
Class 9B: Hamlin, Harding County, Avon, Faulkton Area
On to Nebraska. Classes C2, D1 and D2 play on Wednesday.
Class C2: Doniphan-Trumbull (over Crofton), North Platte St. Patrick’s, Hastings St. Cecilia, Battle Creek, Omaha Brownell-Talbott, Malcolm, Archbishop Bergan, Hartington Cedar Catholic
Class D1: Bruning-Davenport-Shickley (over Randolph), High Plains Community, Creighton, Howells-Dodge, Overton, Twin Loup, Hemingford, Elm Creek
Class D2: Wallace, Loomis, Stuart, Shelton, Falls City Sacred Heart, Humphrey St. Francis, Nebraska Lutheran, Wynot
Friday is the semifinals for 2A and 3A. I’ll post those picks along with my semifinal picks later this week.
BY JEREMY HOECK
On more than one occasion last season, Dave Boots referenced his three players sitting out — redshirting — as reason to be excited for future years.
Those guys, Trey Norris (transfer from North Texas), Adam Thoseby (Utah State) and Tyler Larson (Casper College), are ready for action, though now for USD interim men’s basketball coach Joey James.
With still a bulk of first and second-year players on the roster for the Coyotes, the program could be two seasons away from really being a top contender in the Summit League. James, however, is not ready to discount his squad for 2013-14, as he said during Wednesday’s USD media day gathering in Vermillion.
“The one thing we talk with our guys about is not dwelling on last year’s 10-win season or the future, it’s about living in the moment,” James said. “We’ll return almost everybody next year, and this will be one heckuva group.
“It could be this year too, it just depends on how the young guys develop.”
That’s the question for the Coyotes.
Eight of the team’s 13 scholarship players are either freshmen or sophomores, and seven kids on the roster have never played a game for USD — including the three redshirts from last season.
“They’re young yet. They look like me,” James joked. “We need some time; need some growth. They need some games.”
To help break in the young team before the season opener Nov. 9 at St. Bonaventure, the Coyotes scheduled a closed scrimmage at Drake last Sunday (I heard they lost by three points). In that first competition outside of intrasquad practices, the Coyotes broke out a new man-to-man defense that figures to be one of a handful of changes implemented by James.
The new leader of the program pointed Wednesday to three changes he wants to see on the defensive end:
• Defensive transition. Using a basketball stat program called Synergy, the Coyotes ranked 324th out of 347 Division I teams last season in that category, James said. “We want to finish in that top 100.”
• Improvement on defensive rebounding. “It should be one shot and done, once we get that stop,” James said.
• Improved half-court defense
Among the other changes for the Coyotes will be the makeup of the rotation, accounting for the additions of the three redshirts and a few freshmen newcomers.
A look at the lineup, from James on Wednesday.
• 1 — Norris and Rico Thompson (Fr., who is out 6-8 weeks following a broken foot). Brandon Bos (Jr.) will see extended time here, as well.
• 2 — Casey Kasperbauer (So.) and Bos
• 3 — Thoseby (So.), Karim Rowson (Sr.) and Larson (Jr.)
• 4 — Eric Robertson (So.), Tavian Pomlee (Jr., transfer from Iowa Western) and Austin Sparks (Fr.). James didn’t specify, but I would assume Tyler Flack (So.) would fit in here.
• 5 — Trevor Gruis (Sr.) and Sparks