BY JEREMY HOECK
VERMILLION – As one University of South Dakota football player told me after practice Wednesday, the Coyotes aren’t about to let two games define their season.
While the Coyotes (2-3) are coming off a pair of rough losses to start the Missouri Valley portion of their schedule, there were no bowed heads at practice. That was one thing that struck me right away; while I’m sure there was some lingering disappointment from back-to-back lopsided games, there wasn’t any discernible change in the spirits.
That was a focus this week for USD in the preparation for Saturday’s game at North Dakota State, according to senior linebacker Keyen Lage.
He took a few minutes after practice to answer a couple questions.
It seems like spirits remain pretty high around here? That hasn’t changed has it?
No, it hasn’t at all. Since the beginning of fall camp, spirits have been higher than they have since I’ve been here. I think we’re just really excited for this game; we know what’s at stake. We’ve got the whole David and Goliath thing going on. Obviously, we can’t deny the fact that NDSU is a powerhouse and they’re a great team, but we have that David factor going for us. This week we’ve really put an emphasis on staying positive and being as upbeat as we can.
And you guys really embrace that underdog don’t you?
Oh definitely. It’s automatically given to us, so we might as well embrace it. You can’t fight something that’s already given to you. We embrace it and we work our butts off to make something happen.
What’s it like getting ready for a team like NDSU?
Being a guy that’s played against them the last three years, and knowing the level of competition they are, they always do the right thing 100 percent of the time. They’re efficient 100 percent of the time. I always love going up against a really good team. Going against a team like that, I have a lot of confidence in our guys.
In some ways, I’d think this is a good barometer for the program, isn’t it? To see that level?
You see that level every week in this conference. Any team can win this conference, and we love the competition.
What’s it going to take to stay with the Bison and potentially pull the upset?
We need to shut down what they’re good at. Like I said, they’re 100 percent efficient all the time; they don’t make mistakes. They’re extremely sound in what they do, and if we’re extremely sound in what we do and don’t make dumb mistakes, then I think we’ll be able to stay in there with them.
What was the biggest focus for you guys this week coming off those two tough losses in a row?
Just keeping our spirits up. After a game like last week that was a terrible performance, it’s easy to get down on ourselves. We just have to keep the spirits up.
How about the loud music in the Dome today? How much can that prepare you for the Fargodome?
That’s huge, definitely. We listen to this kind of music all the time up in the weight room, so we always get really pumped; dance around and stuff. It was to help us get ready for their crowd noise, but also to help keep our spirits up.