VERMILLION, S.D. | The scoreboard operator at Bowers Stadium in Huntsville, Texas, could have his finger on the keys a little more than usual Saturday.
Sam Houston State plays there and boasts the top offensive team in the country, so high scoring is nothing out of the ordinary.
This week, though, South Dakota, which has the nation’s second best offense, pays a visit for a second-round FCS playoff game. So, points may come in bunches, keeping the scorekeeper extra busy.
Fifth-ranked Sam Houston State (10-1) averages 544.6 yards and 45.9 points per game. The No. 18 Coyotes (8-4), meanwhile, rack up 514.2 yards per contest and are fifth in scoring at 37.8 points an outing.
South Dakota won its first-ever Division I playoff game last week, holding off Nicholls 38-31 in Thibodaux, Louisiana. Sam Houston’s Bearkats, the No. 6 seed, had an opening-round bye.
Not only does this contest showcase the best offenses in the country, but also two of the premier players.
Sam Houston State quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe won the Walter Payton Award as the top player in the FCS last season and is a finalist again this year. USD signal-caller Chris Streveler is also a Payton Award finalist.
Briscoe, a year after breaking an FCS record with 57 touchdown passes, has thrown for 37 this season and 3,893 yards while accounting for 40 total touchdowns. Streveler has 3,614 passing yards, 669 rushing yards and 37 touchdowns.
“They’re a very talented football team with exceptional offensive talent that’s going to stress us everywhere,” South Dakota Coach Bob Nielson said. “It’s going to be one of those games where any time you can get them off the field it’s going to be a big thing for you.”
That probably means that the Coyotes will have to rush for more than the season-low 74 yards they had against Nicholls.
“When you play a very good offensive team you have to value every offensive possession,” Nielson said. “One of the things you want to be able to do is when you get the football, hold onto it. So for us, our best offense is when we’re balanced in running and throwing the football.”
The numbers were actually a little skewed last week because the Coyotes scored on two quick drives in the second half using the pass.
“It wasn’t that we went away from the run it was just that we didn’t have that much opportunity to do it,” Nielson said.
Interestingly, both Briscoe and Streveler transferred to their respective teams from FBS schools. Briscoe played at Alabama-Birmingham and Streveler at Minnesota.
“When you have the receivers we have, and we have three running backs we rotate in, and they don’t look at the stats, you know it all starts with your quarterback,” Sam Houston State Coach K.C. Keeler said in a conference call early this week. “He (Briscoe) just does not care about anything but winning.”
Junior wide receiver Davion Davis was the Southland Conference offensive player of the year and has 14 touchdown receptions.
Keeler was impressed after watching game film of Streveler.
“He plays angry,” Keeler said. “The more competitive the game and the more hits he takes, the angrier he plays. North and south, he might be the fastest player on the field.
While South Dakota is in the playoffs for the first time, Sam Houston State is making its seventh straight appearance. Only New Hampshire (14) and North Dakota State (8) have more consecutive trips.
“We’ve done a little bit of work this week to try and simulate the speed both of their tempo and perimeter game in ways that give us the best possible look,” Nielson said. “The experience of having a game under our belt in a playoff atmosphere with a playoff routine does help us for this week. It’s certainly a different challenge with the team we’re playing this week but we’ve been through the routine and know what to expect.”