USD Coyotes Late Stand In Top-10 Win Vs. Southern Illinois
CARBONDALE, Ill.—Southern Illinois was turned away four times from inside the 5-yard line in the closing seconds and South Dakota came away with a 14-7 win Saturday in a battle of top-10 teams at Saluki Stadium.
South Dakota rush linebacker Brendan Webb had a program-record four sacks and deflected a pass on 4th-and-goal in the final seconds that was intercepted by interior lineman Blake Holden for the winning play.
Webb had five tackles in all. Linebacker Brock Mogensen equaled his career high of 15 tackles and had one of seven South Dakota sacks. The Coyotes held Southern Illinois scoreless until late in the fourth quarter one week after the Salukis scored 63 points in a win against Western Illinois.
South Dakota scored on 1-yard runs by Travis Theis in the first quarter and Aidan Bouman with 6:44 left in the fourth quarter. The Coyotes mustered 196 yards against one of the top defenses in all of FCS, but didn’t turn it over. Touchdowns on both trips to the red zone proved just enough for South Dakota’s third win against a top-25 team this season.
“Really hard-fought win against a good football team on the road,” said USD head coach Bob Nielson. “Had to scramble a little bit there at the end, but a great stand to seal the win.
“We tackled well, put consistent pressure on the quarterback and gave up just one big play in the passing game. We made them work for every yard. Offensively, we knew points were going to come at a premium. We took advantage of a couple of drives and when we got the ball in the red zone we put it in the end zone.”
Theis and Charles Pierre Jr. combined to grind out 87 yards rushing and Bouman completed 15-of-20 passes for 111 yards. JJ Galbreath had a key 22-yard catch on third down during the Coyotes’ second scoring drive of the game and finished with 51 yards on five snags.
But the defense behind Webb and Mogensen stole the show. Webb had sacks on back-to-back plays early in the game to set the tone. He had 3.5 sacks earlier this year in a game against Lamar. His sacks today were his first inside conference play and they were well timed.
“He (Webb) played a great football game,” said Nielson. “He played hard. We knew going in that creating negative plays and trying to minimize negative plays against their defense were going to be important.”
South Dakota’s seven sacks compared to two from Southern Illinois and the Salukis finished with four tackles-for-loss in all, just half their season average.
Shahid Barros got home on a corner blitz right before halftime to force SIU’s fourth punt of the first half. The Coyotes also stuffed a 4th-and-1 quarterback sneak on the opening possession of the game. Later in the first half in a similar situation, Southern Illinois opted to punt.
The Salukis finally broke through on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Nic Baker to Aidan Quinn with 3:06 to go. The Coyotes went 3-and-out on their next possession and SIU began on its own 47 with 2:04 remaining and no timeouts.
Webb began the final drive with his fourth sack, but Baker hit Izaiah Hartrup with a 25-yard bomb on the next play to move into South Dakota territory. Baker hit D’Ante’ Cox on a circus catch that was defended well but went for 27 yards to the 5.
Ro Elliott ran to the 2 on first down. Cox couldn’t wrestle away a ball from cornerback Myles Harden in time to stay in bounds on second down. The play was reviewed and the home crowd wasn’t happy after it upheld, but they couldn’t see the ball bobble between Harden and Cox before he secured it while out of bounds.
The third down pass sailed through the back of the end zone, and Webb got a paw on Baker’s fourth-down pass. It shot up in the air and Holden caught it at the 5 before falling to the ground.
Holden had seven tackles to go with his first collegiate interception. Baker finished 16-of-35 for 227 yards. His final throw was the game’s only turnover. Elliott had 57 yards rushing and the Salukis finished with 105.
South Dakota heads home for what will be another pivotal matchup against North Dakota (6-3, 4-2), a 45-31 winner over Murray State Saturday. It will be the Coyotes’ final home game of the season. Kickoff is noon.
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Gallery Credit: Sophia Crisafulli