VERMILLION, S.D. | Tonight’s game against North Dakota State isn't technically a road tilt for the University of South Dakota.
There will, however, be plenty of NDSU boosters at Howard Wood Field for the 6 p.m. Missouri Valley Football Conference contest.
And, although it counts as a home game for the Coyotes, their fortunes away from the DakotaDome over the last three-plus seasons have not been good.
Since the start of the 2009 campaign, South Dakota has a 1-12 record on the road against Football Championship Subdivision teams. That one victory came in the final game of the ’09 season.
The latest loss, a 27-24 fourth-quarter collapse at previously winless Missouri Southern last Saturday, was particularly hard to swallow.
South Dakota surrendered 17 points in the last five-and-a-half minutes, blowing a 24-10 lead while slipping to 1-5 overall and 0-3 in the MVFC.
“It’s hard to put into words other than the roof just caved in,” USD Coach Joe Glenn said. “We were playing about as well as we’ve played all season.
“You wouldn’t think it would happen and you feel horrible about it, but it’s one of those things. We went from having a good day and a good game, to all of a sudden things going sour in the last six minutes.”
USD had the ball for 40 minutes and outgained Missouri Southern, but its inability to finish games –- which has plagued this program since 2009 – once again reared its ugly head.
The downfall started when Missouri State held the Coyotes on fourth-and-1 from the MSU 44 with 5:36 remaining. On the next play, the Bears threw a touchdown pass.
On its next possession, USD quarterback Josh Vander Maten, who had scrambled for a first down, fumbled at the Coyote 49. Four plays later, Kierra Harris threw his second touchdown pass in less than two minutes, tying it at 24-all.
Instead of running out the clock, the Coyotes instead were held on three running plays and punted, which Julian Burton brought back 30 yards. That and a late pass interference call led to Austin Witmer’s 33-yard field goal on the last play of the game.
“You just have to put it behind you, learn from it and keep fighting to get a win, that’s all I’ve ever known,” Glenn said. “Maybe it will motivate you to finish stronger and for when it comes back to the fourth quarter and you have a chance to make a play, you make it. We know how we played most of that game and what we’re capable of doing.”
North Dakota State (5-1, 2-1), the defending FCS national champion, slipped from No. 1 to No. 4 in the weekly poll after a 17-14 home loss to Indiana State last Saturday.
“I’m sure they didn’t want to lose but we can’t control that part,” Glenn said. “We’re practicing hard and I still feel good about the team’s mental edge. We just have to keep powering through this and see if we can make something of our season.”
North Dakota State has limited six of its last seven opponents to less than 250 yards of total offense.
Quarterback Brock Jensen averages 202 passing yards per game and ranks third in school history with 4,686 yards. Jensen has completed 65.8 percent of his passes (100-for-152).
South Dakota will probably have to go without one of its top offensive threats in senior running back Marcus Sims, who injured his ankle late in last week’s game. Sims has rushed for a team-high 443 yards, but may give way to Jasper Sanders tonight.
A large contingent of Coyote fans are expected to converge on Howard Wood Field, which is nearly sold out.
“It will be a great atmosphere for college football,” Glenn said. “You know the old saying, they put their pants on one leg at a time just like us. Nobody thought Indiana State would beat them, so we have to go up there with confidence, play hard and see if we can eek one out like Indiana State did.”