YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - South Dakota got off to a slow start and fell behind by 22 points at halftime and left too big a hole to climb out of in a 29-17 loss to Youngstown State in a Missouri Valley Conference football game Saturday evening.
The Coyotes played the Penguins on even terms after falling behind 19-0 in the first quarter, but a last ditch effort to get back in the game was squashed by a 65-yard interception return by Youngstown's D.J. Smalls.
Youngstown State took advantage of a USD fumble in the opening minute of the game to get the early lead. Ben Klett turned the ball over on a run up the middle at the USD 35. It took the Penguins just six plays to get the lead on a 7-yard run by Tevin McCaster. The PAT kick failed leaving YSU up 6-0.
The Penguins added six more points to their lead after a three-and-out and punt by USD. Youngstown took over at its own 22 and McCaster topped off a nine-play drive with a 12-yard TD catch off a pass from Montgomery Van Gorder. The point after kick once again was missed.
USD's Simmons was sacked three times in the first half and his team was only able to pick up two first downs while the Penguins had 15. For the game, Youngstown had a 22-18 edge in first downs but a possession edge of 40:10 to just 19:50 was a big factor in the Penguins' ability to hold on.
McCaster, the Valley's leading rusher coming into the game, had a big part in Youngstown's ability to control the clock as he carried the ball 36 times for 173 yards.
The Coyotes used a fumble recovery of their own on Youngstown's initial possession of the second half to score their first points of the evening.
Van Gorder was sacked by South Dakota's Jack Richardson and Jake Matthew covered the ball at the Youngstown 14.
Kai Henry cashed in the first on the first play that USD had the ball, carrying the ball 14 yards for the score to pull the Coyotes within 22-7.
A second USD drive of the half was fueled by a 33-yard pass to Dakari Allen that moved to ball past midfield. The drive stalled after two more first downs and Mason Lorber booted a 23-yard field goal to pull the Coyotes within 22-10.
Still down by two touchdown, USD picked up another fumble to stop a Youngstown drive at the Coyote 19. Smalls' theft and return with 6:19 left effectively ended South Dakota's hopes.
The Coyotes scored on a 24-yard run by Henry with 3:56 left but Youngstown with able to run out the clock for its fourth win in as many games with USD in Youngstown.
End Darin Greenfield had a big game year for the Coyote defense. In addition to finishing with a career-high nine solo tackles, he had two tackles-for-loss, forced two turnovers via the fumble and was credited with three quarterback hurries.
South Dakota (3-4 overall, 2-2 MVC) returns home to host North Dakota State next Saturday.