HORNS DOWN! South Dakota shocks NDSU and the FCS

Coyotes lead wire-to-wire in Fargodome to upset #2 Bison 24-19
Coyotes upset #2 Bison 24-19
Published: Oct. 1, 2023 at 12:49 AM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Dakota News Now) - A total team effort across the board – offense, defense and special teams – led South Dakota to a 24-19 upset of No. 2 North Dakota State in a Missouri Valley Football Conference opener for both teams Saturday inside the Fargodome.

The Coyotes (3-1) scored touchdowns on all three drives in the first half, led 21-3 at halftime and held on to post their second win in Fargo since 2015. South Dakota won its fifth conference opener in seven seasons and ended North Dakota State’s streak of 12 consecutive, conference-opening victories.

South Dakota quarterback Aidan Bouman threw for 168 yards on 10-of-12 passing and connected with Carter Bell on touchdowns of 50 and 52 yards. Bell had five catches for 124 yards and two scores. It was the second time Bell has scored twice in a game during his career and he stands with 13 career touchdown receptions.

“It’s a good win for our program for sure,” said USD head coach Bob Nielson. “You’re beating one of the best teams in the country, not just one of the best teams in the Valley. It’s one win, we have to remember its one win, but it’s certainly a really good win for our team and a win that we have to keep building on.”

It was the second week in a row that South Dakota played in a game with few offensive possessions. Sustained drives by both teams made that the case Saturday. The Coyotes scored on four of their five possessions and ran just 38 offensive plays. But they made them count. South Dakota played turnover free, committed four penalties and was 2-of-4 on third down.

Defensively, South Dakota made plays inside the red zone, forcing North Dakota State (3-1) to settle for field goals on two 16-play drives that each lasted more than nine minutes. Dennis Shorter also picked off Bison quarterback Cam Miller in the second quarter, causing the Bison’s first turnover of the season. Two plays later, Bouman made a play with his feet to avoid pressure and stepped up to hit Bell in stride 50 yards down the field for USD’s third score and a 21-3 lead.

“All I did was run on the first touchdown and we hit them with a great play call against what they were running,” said Bell. “On the second one, Aidan did a great job escaping, finding time, completing the pass and getting into the end zone. We executed the play and had faith Aidan would get the ball there.”

Twelve pass attempts won’t stand out in a box score, but Bouman made the most of his throws Saturday. One that will be overlooked came on the third play of the game.

A homecoming crowd 18,000 strong helped draw a false start before play one and roared louder when it was 3rd-and-13. But Bouman hit Bell for 16 yards across the middle for a crucial first down. He came back in play four and found Jack Martens for an 11-yard strike and a first down. After a Nate Thomas run, Bouman swung a pass to his left to Bell who received two great blocks and sprinted untouched for a 50-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

“That was a huge momentum play for us to come out with the ball to start,” said Bouman. “We did a great job that whole first half executing like we knew we could, played really hard, and it was a great team win.”

Adding to the team win was true freshman Keyondre Jones, whose first career carry went for an 8-yard touchdown with 9:47 left in the second quarter that pushed the lead to 14-3. That same play netted seven yards on a fourth quarter drive that setup a crucial field goal. Jones also had three nice kickoff returns.

The Bison marched 89 yards on the opening possession of the second half and scored on a 7-yard run by Cole Payton. But the drive drained half of the third quarter clock. South Dakota went 3-and-out on its next possession and was forced to punt for the first time since week two.

Again, the Bison drove, and they had it 1st-and-10 on the USD 12. But Coyote safety Josiah Ganues dropped Payton for a loss on a 3rd-and-4 keeper and Griffin Crosa ran on for the short field goal. Nine more minutes came off the clock and the lead was 21-13 with 11:10 remaining.

Bouman passed twice in the second half. Facing 3rd-and-7 from his own 30, Bouman hit tight end JJ Galbreath right between the numbers on a slant for an 8-yard gain. From there, Jones, Thomas and Travis Theis worked behind their offensive line and drove to NDSU’s 19. Will Leyland’s 37-yard field goal with 2:49 left made it a two-score game and sent many in the homecoming crowd headed for the exits.

“Coming here and finding a way to win on the road is exactly what you have to do to hopefully be in the thick of things at the end of conference,” said Nielson. “We knew we had to do the little things right – winning the turnover margin, making big plays in the kicking game, and making more explosive plays than they did.

“We made a couple of explosive plays in the first half to create touchdowns, and even though we were hanging on in the second half, I couldn’t have been more proud of how our guys fought to hang in there at the end and finish that game.”

Miller and the Bison offense converted a 4th-and-4 and got a pass interference call on 3rd-and-goal before reaching the end zone with 36 seconds left. Miller hit Joe Stoffel in the back of the end zone from 2 yards out.

Shorter intercepted Miller’s two-point conversion pass and the score stayed 24-19. NDSU’s onside kick scampered out of bounds and Bouman took a knee to cap the win.

North Dakota State ran 65 plays for 348 yards. Miller completed 18-of-25 passes for 154 yards and led the Bison with 70 yards rushing on 12 carries.

Thomas ran 14 times for 49 yards for South Dakota. Theis added 39 yards on nine totes. The Coyote defense got 13 tackles from Brock Mogensen and 11 from Shorter. Mi’Quise Grace earned his second sack in as many weeks.

South Dakota returns to camps for Dakota Days, the Coyotes’ annual homecoming game. USD hosts Valley newcomer Murray State in a 2 p.m. kickoff next Saturday inside the DakotaDome.