VERMILLION, S.D. | Depending on which poll you follow, South Dakota surged either nine or 10 spots in the weekly Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) ratings this week after throttling then No. 10 North Dakota 45-7.
The Coyotes are No. 13 in the STATS poll, while the FCS coaches have them ranked 14th. Either way, it’s a lofty perch for a team that’s off to its first 3-0 start since 2006.
So, the question is, will having a bye this week affect their momentum?
“I think it’s good to have a bye week fairly early in the year, it gives you a chance to examine some of the things you’re doing and focus on aspects that need to be improved upon,” USD Coach Bob Nielson said. “In our case it provides us an opportunity, with a lot of our younger guys, to develop a little more depth which is something that we’ve got to do as we head into the conference rush. And, certainly, we have an opportunity to get a little jump start on our first conference opponent Western Illinois.”
Speaking of jump starts, South Dakota has thrived on them through three games, outscoring its opponents 66-3 in the first quarter while outgaining them 583-230.
“Our guys are playing with a lot of confidence and we’ve gotten off to a really good start in all three of our games,” Nielson. “The guys are taking pride in execution of the game plan and I’m happy with where we’re at, now we just have to keep getting better.”
Against a North Dakota defense that limited Missouri State to 79 yards rushing and 132 passing the previous week, the Coyotes tallied 285 on the ground and 290 through the air.
“Obviously we want to carry this momentum into the next game,” said USD quarterback Chris Streveler, who has racked up 1,069 total yards and leads the nation in points responsible for with 13 touchdowns (7 passing, 6 rushing). “We’ve also got to look at this bye week and get better. We have some guys banged up so we have to get them healthy. We can’t just gloss over this bye week because all the other teams are going to be getting better.
“You always want to be playing games, but we do have some guys banged up so it always seems like a bye week comes at a good time with that kind of stuff. Hopefully we can get some crucial guys back and get everyone ready to go for the conference schedule.”
Standout left tackle Nick Jensen left Saturday’s game on the second play from scrimmage, suffering a dislocated knee cap. According to a post on Twitter, he will be gone at least six weeks, but there are several other players who may be able to return for the Sept. 30 contest in Macomb, Illinois.
“We’re still hoping to get some guys back by the time we play Western, guys like Brandt Van Roekel and Jake Loehr,” Nielson said. “Alex Gray was held out last week and we’re hoping to regain his services. It allows us to maybe get a couple guys back which would be a good thing.
“You need all your troops when you head into the series of conference games we have ahead of us. The best way I can describe it is when you play in our league you have eight conference games and you’re going to play eight playoff-caliber football teams.”
Senior wide receiver Van Roekel was injured early in the first quarter of the season opener at Drake while defensive tackle Leohr has yet to see action.