Completing the perfect example of an up-and-down slate, the University of South Dakota football team ended its 2010 season Saturday with a 24-20 loss at Lamar.
The Coyotes finish with a 4-7 record, their first losing season since 2003.
In trying to find a way to recap the campaign, I decided I’d hit the major points and provide some brief thoughts on certain areas.
VITALS: 4-7 overall, 1-3 in the Great West Conference.
TRENDS: Coyotes started the season 2-1, but lost five of six games down the stretch.
SCHEDULE: Easily one of the most competitive schedules to date, USD played a pair of FBS schools (Central Florida and Minnesota) and three ranked FCS opponents (North Dakota State, Northern Iowa and Cal Poly).
CONFERENCE PLAY: USD’s only win in Great West Conference action was a 27-17 homecoming victory over North Dakota (which finished 0-4 in league play).
HIGHLIGHT: Is there any doubt? It’s easily the win at Minnesota, 41-38 on Sept. 11 in Minneapolis. Following the win, not only was USD ranked in the top 25 of the FCS media poll, but was the talk of the college football world. At that point, the Coyotes were kings of the state. Coaches, administrators and players conducted dozens upon dozens of interviews (both regionally and nationally).
LOWLIGHT: Without question, it’s Saturday’s season-ending loss at Lamar. Why? Well, there are a few reasons, in my opinion. First, USD had a chance to at least end the season on a positive note. If nothing else, the Coyotes could head into the offseason with five wins, matching the 2009 total. Second, Lamar is a school playing football for the first time since 1989. Even with a handful of Division I transfers, the Cardinals were thumped by North Dakota two weeks before USD came to town. Third, USD’s defense let down the Coyotes, who had taken a 20-17 lead with under three minutes to play. The home Cardinals converted a 3rd & 21 play deep inside their own territory for a 53-yard pass play, setting up a game-winning touchdown with 43 seconds left.
BY THE NUMBERS: The Coyotes ranked fourth in the Great West in scoring offense (23.4 ppg), fifth in total defense (396.9 yds per game) and fifth in rushing defense (169.4). Overall, leading rusher Chris Ganious ran for 817 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Dante Warren passed for 2,137 yards with 18 TD. Leading receiver Will Powell was USD’s main target, with 933 yards and 10 TD — the Coyotes had three other receivers with 2 TD.
2011 OUTLOOK: On the bright side, USD graduates only five seniors, including a starting offensive lineman (Scott Slotten), two starting linebackers (Cory Kuehl and Eric Leon), and two tight ends (London Landry and Mitch Mohr). Offensively, the Coyotes will bring back all of their receivers, the starting quarterback, all of their running backs and 4 of 5 offensive linemen. On defense — which was young this year — USD will return 10 of 11 starters. The Coyotes will play FBS games at Air Force and Wisconsin, and will host the likes of Lamar, UC Davis and Southern Utah.