Post-game press conference footage from Saturday’s college football game between the University of South Dakota and No. 22/23-ranked Northern Arizona at the DakotaDome in Vermillion. South Dakota held off the Lumberjacks to capture a 28-21 victory.
BY JEREMY HOECK
VERMILLION – Eric Shufford wanted a do-over.
His fumble on a punt return early in the third quarter of Saturday’s game against No. 22 Northern Arizona wasn’t going to cost the University of South Dakota a victory, but he was the first to admit, the turnover shouldn’t have happened in the first place.
Shufford, a junior transfer from San Bernardino Valley College in California, just wanted a second chance.
“I told my teammates, ‘I have to get it back,’” said the wide receiver, whose nickname is “Munchie,” a moniker held from birth. “They held me up the whole time, not letting me get down on myself.
“Being able to make a play to put the game away for my team, it was great.”
Early in the fourth quarter, with the Coyotes up 20-14, Shufford hauled in a pass from sophomore quarterback Ryan Saeger for a 9-yard touchdown – his second of the season.
That wasn’t enough for Shufford, though.
To give USD a two-touchdown advantage, Shufford (also the holder) executed a fake extra point and the left-handed thrower hit fullback Drew Potter for a two-point conversion. That lead would eventually hold up, as the Coyotes secured a 28-21 victory.
Shufford was officially exonerated.
“Over the years, I’ve always told kids, ‘Don’t get down on yourself if you make a mistake, and don’t get down on a teammate,’” head coach Joe Glenn said.
“And how many times in my career has that same guy come back to be the hero.”
Part of an offense that has run the ball nearly 70 percent of the time this season, Shufford has emerged as the top target for Saeger. Through four games, Shufford leads the team with 11 catches for a team-high 131 yards and has both of USD’s two receiving touchdowns.
Might the newest wrinkle in his game be on fake kicks?
“We practice it every week just in case,” Shufford said.
Not one to take credit for his touchdown, the California native shrugged off his role, saying that Saeger was the one to make the play happen.
“It was that guy,” Shufford said, pointing down the table to Saeger. “He made a great play, a great read. It wasn’t there initially, but on the fly he made an adjustment.”
Making the catch was necessary after that kind of effort by his quarterback, Shufford said.
“That’s what I get paid to do,” he said, eliciting laughter from the room, including athletic director David Herbster.
As for the two-point conversion, Glenn made the call from the sideline, but it was obvious that the Coyotes sought a 14-point lead. The coach joked later that the ‘go-for-two chart’ says ‘go for two.’
“He should’ve run it in,” Glenn said with a smile, joking that it’s hard to ask a former high school quarterback to pass up a throw. “He threw a strike.”
Shufford also serves as USD’s main returner on punts and kickoffs, but provides more than just big-play potential for the Coyotes, according to his coach.
“He’s a fun guy to be around,” Glenn said. “He’s got a lot of savvy, you can see that.”