VERMILLION — The South Dakota Coyotes defense led the way in a 20-13 against the Missouri State Bears in Missouri Valley Football Conference action Saturday at the DakotaDome.
USD improves to 3-6 (2-4 MVFC) while Missouri State falls to 3-6 (1-5 MVFC).
The defense showed improvements from last week against Youngstown State when the Coyotes defense struggled in a 45-24 defeat.
“We've all said it was a fluke (last week against Youngstown State),” Coyotes defensive lineman Blake Holden said after this week’s game. “Things like that happens once in a while, and unfortunately happen to us last week. (Missouri State) is a good team. They put up 64 points on Western Illinois last week. We knew they were going to come in confident and ready to score some points. For us to hold them at 13 points was good for us on defense.”
USD’s offense did a good job of taking what the Missouri State defense was giving them throughout the game.
“You’ve got to win with all three phases of the game,” USD head coach Bob Nielson said. “We had all three phases contribute today.”
Missouri State was playing more players in the box, which forced USD to pass. Coyotes quarterback Aidan Bouman took advantage of that, finishing 17-of-25 passing for 235 yards and two touchdowns.
“If you look at us this year, we haven't thrown the ball very well,” Nielson said. “Missouri State's game plan coming in (could have been) ‘If we can stop Shomari (Lawrence) and Travis (Theis), we could be potentially in for a good day. We're still playing a relatively inexperienced quarterback.’”
Bouman did not look inexperienced throughout the game, however. He checked a play and told Carter Bell to run a fade route on a 23-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to give USD a 20-3 lead.
Nielson said giving Bouman freedom to check into plays at the line of scrimmage helps the offense be more successful.
“It makes your offense more effective,” Nielson said. “Aidan has a pretty good understanding of what the defense is doing. He threw the ball on the money today.”
Theis had a fumble early in the contest that Missouri State converted into a field goal. Nielson liked the way the sophomore running back bounced back after the early miscue on his way to earning 74 yards on 24 carries in the contest.
“He had to carry the load today,” Nielson said. “He earned every yard he got today. Those tough yards are important for us because that running game makes the pass game effective and vice versa. A couple of those completions were throws off runs. It’s something that we can continue to get better at.”
Missouri State chipped away at USD’s lead in the second half, but the Coyotes forced the Bears into long drives. However, the Bears got within seven points at 20-13 with 2:02 left. Procedure penalties and execution errors on the part of the Coyotes contributed to them going three-and-out and having to punt on the next possession.
The Bears got the football back with 1:37 remaining but USD’s defense held serve, as linebacker Stephen Hillis broke up a pass from Missouri State quarterback Jason Shelley that was intended for running back Celdon Manning.
“(We wanted to) make them drive the length of the field and have to score a touchdown,” Nielson said. “The way our defense was playing, we were very confident that in that 1:37 (where) they had no timeouts, that that was going to be a tough task for them. The proof was in the results (with stopping them).”
USD looks to build upon the victory as they travel to Grand Forks to take on the North Dakota Fighting Hawks next week. Game time is set for Noon at the Alerus Center.
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