BY JEREMY HOECK
There weren’t going to be many bright spots for the University of South Dakota football team when it came to playing North Dakota State.
It’s a game where you look to find anything positive to take away.
The Bison rolled past the Coyotes 47-7, just like the three-time defending national champions have done to many teams throughout their 32-game winning streak.
It was a game I pointed out a couple times last week where USD was just going to have to set small, attainable goals. And keeping with that thought, the Coyotes were able to check off a few of those.
• Well, for starters, USD finally scored against the Bison. It took until the third meeting, but the Coyotes found the end zone — on a Riley Donovan 10-yard catch from Kevin Earl in the second quarter.
• The Coyotes forced three punts, including on the game’s opening drive.
• The Coyotes forced the Bison to kick (and make) four field goals from Adam Keller. Small victories right there.
• USD executed a successful fake punt, on an 18-yard pass from Miles Bergner to Jordan Roberts.
• The Coyotes were able to get pressure on NDSU quarterback Carson Wentz. USD picked up its second sack of the season (from Auston Johnson), and knocked Wentz to the turf a couple other times.
But that was about it.
The Bison dominated the Coyotes yet again, to the tune of 524 yards of total offense — nearly 300 more than USD — and forced three turnovers (a fumble and two interceptions).
There weren’t exactly new problem areas that popped up for the Coyotes, at least from what head coach Joe Glenn referenced after the game.
Among the issues, again, were offensive turnovers (3) and defensive takeaways (0).
“It’s a hard defense to go against to downgrade your linemen,” Glenn said.
During that post-game press conference (which had a capacity crowd in one of the DakotaDome classrooms), Glenn talked at length about what, in his eyes, has made NDSU successful. And not just in recent years, but over its history.
Glenn referenced fan support, financial support, facilities strength and recruiting as keys for the Bison during their most recent championship run.
On the issue of recruiting, Glenn called NDSU “positive recruiters” in that the Bison “never speak down about your school. They’re always positive about their program.”
And yes, the Coyotes and Bison battle for the same kids quite frequently. Two of them, linebacker Nick DeLuca and receiver R.J. Urzendowski, both played key roles in Saturday’s outcome. DeLuca had a game-high 12 tackles with an interception, while Urzendowski caught four passes for 107 yards and a touchdown.
Both are from Omaha, Nebraska, and yes, both were recruited by USD — and some other schools.
An area the Coyotes continue to work on in recruiting is athleticism, Glenn said.
“I’ll just flat out tell you. If you’ve got good athletes, they’ll create turnovers,” he said. “And we’re not athletic enough on the field.”
Glenn referenced Tyler Starr’s speed as an example of what USD is looking for.
“Those are things we’ve got to recruit, get guys who can break on the ball a little bit faster.”