BY JEREMY HOECK
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — No matter where and when it tried to run the ball, the University of South Dakota football team couldn’t find any space in Saturday’s 20-7 loss at Northern Iowa.
The inability to establish a run game was an understandable frustration for the Coyotes, who had rushed for 193 yards against North Dakota State two weeks ago and 249 against Missouri State last week.
Put another way, Northern Iowa did what no other Missouri Valley Conference team has done this season against the Coyote offense.
“I thought we might have a little trouble, but not that much trouble,” USD coach Joe Glenn said.
The Coyotes, who managed 81 yards after the first quarter at the UNI-Dome, rushed 36 times for 54 yards — a 1.5 average. Their previous low in a conference game this season was 143 yards.
The question was raised in the post-game press conference whether USD had considered trying something else, given that the run game wasn’t working.
Glenn, in response, pointed out that Northern Iowa’s punter, Sam Kuhter, twice pinned the Coyotes inside their own 5-yard line in the fourth quarter. In that quarter, USD’s three drives began at the 20, 3 and 1-yard line.
“You try to get better at what you do,” Glenn said. “I don’t think you go wholesale out and start chucking.
“In the fourth quarter, we would have gone to more throwing, but look where we were at. We just didn’t get a break in the fourth quarter. Their punter just killed us.”
After rolling up 106 yards in the first quarter, when it scored its only touchdown, USD struggled to move the ball. And outside of that 81-yard scoring drive, the next longest drive for the Coyotes was 20 yards.
Northern Iowa coach Mark Farley said his defense settled into the tempo of the game after trying to establish what USD’s plan of attack would be.
“I think we figured it out pretty quickly what their thought was moving the football,” Farley said.
The best way for the Coyotes to be able to pinpoint what exactly wasn’t working will be to examine film, according to quarterback Ryan Saeger.
“The first three drives, it looked like we were able to establish something, but then we just disappeared,” Saeger said.