BY JEREMY HOECK
There is a section in this week’s Missouri Valley Football Conference weekly notebook entitled ‘Running Wild.’
In previous years, that title would have likely been followed by impressive statistics being piled up by the many talented running backs across the league.
This year, however, it deals with running quarterbacks. Twenty-four percent of the total rushing yardage has come from the legs of quarterbacks – an increase of 12 percent a year ago.
And the University of South Dakota is about to get its first taste of one of those true dual-threat quarterbacks this Saturday at Northern Iowa.
His name: Aaron Bailey.
The junior transfer from the University of Illinois has put together three 100-yard rushing efforts – including each of the past two weeks – this season for Northern Iowa. In last Saturday’s win at South Dakota State, in particular, Bailey carried the ball 23 times for 169 yards and a touchdown.
“How you defend him is probably a little different than maybe a pocket passer,” head coach Mark Farley said Tuesday. “Everybody’s got their own choice how to defend those guys.
“For us, he’s given us latitude to do some things on offense that maybe some other quarterbacks can’t.”
And now that’s something USD (4-3, 2-2) will have to defend for the first time season.
In their first seven games, the Coyotes did not line up across from a quarterback who is as big of a threat on the ground as he is throwing the ball. In fact, the most damage a quarterback has done running the ball against USD’s defense was Kansas State’s Joe Hubener – 9 carries, 38 yards.
The only touchdown the Coyotes have allowed to an opposing quarterback was to North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz, and he finished the game with 8 yards on 5 carries.
That is likely to change Saturday with Bailey, who was a four-start recruit out of high school in Illinois.
“You’ve got to be gap sound,” USD head coach Joe Glenn said Tuesday. “You have to know whatever your scheme is and how you want to defend the option.”
It’s not an exact science, either. Defensive players have to be responsible for their own particular assignments and must also be cognizant of the dive up the middle.
In last Saturday’s 40-10 rout of Missouri State, the Coyote defense allowed one big play on the ground, and that was a 60-yard scamper up the middle. That’s something that can’t happen against the 6-foot-2, 226-pound Bailey, according to Glenn.
Bailey leads Northern Iowa with 110 rushing attempts for 639 yards and five touchdowns. He also passed for 775 yards and five scores.
“He’s as good as advertised; the guy’s really good,” Glenn said. “You’re always concerned when you’ve got a big athlete like that who can run fast.”