VERMILLION, S.D. – If Saturday’s football game between South Dakota and Weber State is anything like the last meeting between the teams, fans in Ogden, Utah, will be in for a treat.
USD rallied from a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit to outlast Weber State 52-49 in double overtime in 2016 at the DakotaDome. A couple of the Coyotes’ key performers in that contest will be on the field again this year.
Shamar Jackson had six catches for 81 yards and three touchdowns two seasons ago, including the game-tying touchdown with 27 seconds remaining and another in overtime. Austin Simmons saw his first collegiate action at quarterback, spelling Chris Streveler for two plays and throwing a touchdown pass to ignite the late comeback.
Saturday’s game matching a pair of 1-1 squads is one of two FCS matchups featuring a pair of top-25 times. Weber State is ranked No. 11 nationally and South Dakota No. 22.
USD Coach Bob Nielson is one win shy of becoming the 91st coach in college football history to reach 200 wins. Nielson would become the 17th active coach to achieve the milestone.
“They’re a team that does all the little things well,” Nielson said. “A team that prides itself in forcing turnovers, I think they’re plus four or five in turnover margin. They’re really good in the kicking game and add to that that they’re a very physical team up front on both sides of the ball.
“We’ll have to play better in many respects than we did last week against Northern Colorado.”
Simmons was a one-man wrecking crew in a 43-28 victory over Northern Colorado in the Coyotes’ home opener last week. The junior passed for 462 yards and accounted for five touchdowns, garnering national performer of the week honors.
One area of concern on offense, though, is consistency in the running game. The Coyotes have rushed for 170 yards on 48 carries through two games.
“We feel good about our running backs, you saw some good runs from (Kai) Henry, (Ben) Klett and the freshman Canaan Brooks,” Nielson said. “It’s just a matter of us doing a little bit better job up front and being a little more consistent in what we’re doing with the running game.”
South Dakota has also prospered in the turnover battle, holding a 6-0 lead, and has recorded four sacks in each of the first two games. Free safety Phillip Powell has had interceptions against both Northern Colorado and Kansas State.
All-American defensive end Darin Greenfield was named the Missouri Valley Football Conference defensive player of the week after recording seven tackles and two sacks. Greenfield led the Valley with 19.5 tackles for loss last season and was second in sacks with 9.0.
Weber State is playing its home opener at Stewart Stadium following a loss to FBS Utah in week one and a 24-17 win at Cal Poly last week. The Wildcats are the defending Big Sky Conference champions.
Josh Davis is the national freshman of the week after rushing for 177 yards and two touchdowns against Cal Poly. Weber State, however, has been outgained 908-383 in its first two games, managing just 59 yards against Utah.
The Coyotes regain the services of senior Michael Fredrick, the team’s leading rusher in two of the last three seasons. Fredrick moved to cornerback this season because of lack of depth at that position and is eligible to compete following a two-game suspension.
Cornerback Isaac Armstead is expected to miss his second straight game. True freshman Cameron Tisdale started opposite Mark Collins Jr. against Northern Colorado.
“This is a trip where we get to play one of the best FCS teams in the country,” Nielson said. “It’s a matchup that’s going to have a lot of bearing and one that’s going to challenge our guys. It will be the kind of game you’re used to in the Valley where if you don’t play your best football you’re not going to win.”