VERMILLION, S.D. | It may have been a 17-point loss, but there were still plenty of positives to be taken from South Dakota’s 31-14 setback at Kansas last Saturday.
And, the Coyotes have a week off before playing another football game, which should give them ample time to iron out the shortcomings.
“We can play better and we have to get better, but we showed we could trade punches with those guys,” said USD Coach Joe Glenn. “There are some hiccups we’re going through, kind of learning about our team each game, what our comfort zone is.”
USD led Kansas 7-0 after one quarter before the Jayhawks scored 24 unanswered points. Six KU ball carriers combined for 280 rushing yards in their season opener.
One area of concern is the punting game.
Not so much the performance of freshman punter Miles Bergner, who earned Missouri Valley Conference special teams player of the week after his first collegiate game against UC Davis on Aug. 31. Rather, the struggles of the long snapper getting the ball back to Bergner.
“They had two scores that came directly off bad field position on the punting game,” said Glenn. “We’re way better than that. Trevor Bouma is our long snapper and he’s struggling with sweaty hands after doing so many other things. We’ll be trying other guys there.
“We have a freshman punter but we’ve already seen what he can do when we get a good snap to him. We can’t be bouncing balls back to him.”
In his defense, Bouma is not only the team’s leading rusher after two games, but also returns kickoffs and was the deep snapper.
On the positive side, the Coyotes looked more comfortable running their new zone read offense, churning out 219 rushing yards. South Dakota has eclipsed 200 yards on the ground in each of its first two games.
“We had a good effort against Kansas. We rushed against a Big 12 defense and had four different kids run for five yards a carry,” Glenn said during Tuesday’s Missouri Valley Conference teleconference. “We have to get the pass game going, but I thought we had a pretty good pass defense against a kid (Jake Heaps) who I think is going to be a special player for Kansas.
“We had as many as four true freshmen out there and 27 made the trip, so for having such a young team they hung in there. We had the lead for most of the first half, but we didn’t finish.”
Junior quarterback Josh Vander Maten led the Coyotes with 78 rushing yards while redshirt freshmen Jordan Roberts and Bouma added 73 and 52 yards, respectively.
Vander Maten, though, passed for just 67 yards and had just 91 in a season-opening 10-7 win over UC Davis.
“No. 1, I have to credit the teams we played,” Glenn said. “Secondary-wise, both did a nice job in coverage. But we haven’t caught the ball very well and we have to protect better. It’s going to be a big emphasis for us, we have to step it up.
“Can you run all the time? Absolutely not. You can run until they stop it and I’m not sure Kansas stopped it. We’re doing good things and if we can work a little passing game in there it would make it a pretty formidable offense. But we have to score some points.”
Defensively, sophomore linebacker Keyen Lage had his second outstanding performance in as many games, charting seven tackles (two for loss). The 6-3, 200-pound Lage was a safety at Sioux Falls Washington High School.
Next week’s opponent, Northern Arizona, had last week off after losing its season opener 35-0 at Arizona. South Dakota travels to Flagstaff, Ariz., for a 6 o’clock game against the Lumberjacks on Sept. 21.
“We’ll know more about them after this week because they play UC Davis,” Glenn said. “Both appear to be pretty darned even to me, it will be interesting to see how that one turns out.”
Despite being shut out by Arizona, Northern Arizona is No. 24 in the latest Football Championship Subdivision poll. Quarterback Kyren Poe, a sophomore, completed 21 of 36 passes for 176 yards against Arizona while Zach Bauman has rushed for over 1,000 yards each of the last three seasons.
Glenn has some background at Northern Arizona.
After graduating from USD in 1971, Glenn served two years as an ROTC officer with the Army. He returned to USD in 1973 to begin work on his master’s degree and was backfield coach for his collegiate coach, Joe Salem, in 1974.
That offseason, after the Coyotes won the North Central Conference, Salem was hired as head coach at Northern Arizona. He took Glenn with him as running backs coach for the 1975 season.
The next year, Glenn took his first head coaching job at Doane College.