Coyotes get first win in Dome Opener victory over Cal Poly

USD offense comes to life in 38-21 win over Mustangs
USD takes it 38-21
Published: Sep. 17, 2022 at 7:06 PM CDT
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VERMILLION, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - South Dakota reached the end zone on its first three possessions and saw quarterback Carson Camp pass for a career-high 355 yards in topping Cal Poly 38-21 in its home opener Saturday inside the DakotaDome.

It was the second win for the Coyotes (1-2) over the Mustangs (1-2) in as many seasons. All of the scoring came in the first and fourth quarters. South Dakota led 21-7 after one and 28-7 after a 70-yard touchdown toss from Camp to Jack Martens early in the fourth quarter. The Coyotes improved to 18-2 in their last 20 home openers.

“I’m really proud of our football team,” said USD head coach Bob Nielson. “It’s been a difficult couple of weeks going on the road and playing two really outstanding teams. We were a little bit beat up coming into the week. Obviously, some changes as a result and I thought our guys responded by combing out today and playing a really hard, physical football game.”

Big plays were a theme throughout as both teams racked up more than 550 yards of offense. The shortest touchdown play was a 19-yard run by Coyote back Travis Theis that extended the lead to 35-14 with 7:04 left. Theis carried nine times for 71 yards in the fourth quarter alone to ice it and led South Dakota with a season-best 90 yards.

Camp scrambled, broke through the secondary and scurried 75 yards to pay dirt on the third play of the game for a 7-0 lead. It was an unexpected treat for the home crowd as Camp entered the game with 23 total yards rushing in 18 career starts. But it was just the play the Coyotes needed to boost their offense.

Cal Poly tried to answer, but receiver Zedakia Centers was stripped of the football at the end of a 35-yard completion by Jailen Holman and Coyote safety Josh Manchigiah pounced on it for the first of two turnovers caused by the USD defense. Theis took a screen pass 40 yards on play two of the ensuing drive and Camp scrambled and found Wesley Eliodor in the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown on a 3rd-and-11 play that made it 14-0.

Running back Shomari Lawrence accounted for all 67 yards on a three-play drive that put South Dakota ahead 21-7 less than 10 minutes into the game. It was another short pass that Lawrence bounced to the edge and tiptoed the left sideline before racing for the end zone.

Camp completed 10-of-11 passes in the first half for 210 yards. He finished 18-of-21 and eclipsed 300 yards passing for the first time since the spring season of 2021.

“We made some big plays – something we’d been struggling with – and with Carson, that’s a great game,” said Nielson. “To have a 75-yard run and to be as efficient as he was in the passing game, he operated our offense really well today. I think he was seeing things well and when the quarterback is playing well in the RPO game, it creates some things.”

Cal Poly entered with redshirt freshman quarterback Jaden Jones having passed for 596 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions in his first two games. He was injured during the Mustangs’ second series of the game and did not return. That brought in Spencer Brasch, the opening day starter for the Mustangs last season who was injured before he had a chance to face South Dakota.

Brasch completed 24-of-42 passes for 362 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Logan Booher in the first quarter, a 53-yarder to Centers in the fourth and a 26-yard score to Chris Coleman with 6:21 left that cut the deficit to 35-21.

Coleman had seven catches for a game-high 107 yards. Centers had four grabs for 107. Shakobe Harper ran 11 times for 106 yards, giving the Mustangs their first 100-yard rusher since 2019.

But South Dakota’s defense did just enough to keep the game out of reach. The Coyotes forced an incompletion on a 4th-and-3 play early in the second quarter after Cal Poly had marched 72 yards on 14 plays to reach the USD 16.

Myles Harden intercepted Brasch on the third play of the second half. It was his second pick in as many weeks and the fourth of his career.

Cal Poly was too slow to trot out its first goal unit and took a delay of game penalty that forced a punt midway through the third. That stalled a 61-yard drive that had reached the USD 26. The Mustangs drove 66 yards on their next possession that ended on a 33-yard missed field goal.

Coyote linebacker Stephen Hillis, who had 14 tackles last week, made four tackles in a row towards the end of the second quarter, but was injured on the fourth tackle and did not return. He had six solo stops by that point including one of three South Dakota sacks of Brasch. Michael Scott got his third sack of the season and Blake Holden and Brendan Webb combined on another. Safety Dennis Shorter was credited with seven tackles and two pass breakups.

South Dakota stays home to host top-ranked North Dakota State next Saturday at 1 p.m. inside the DakotaDome.