FCS Playoff Preview: South Dakota at Nicholls State
For the first time in their Division I history, the South Dakota Coyotes are getting ready to play a post season football game.
USD opens the 2017 FCS Playoffs on the road at Nicholls State, Saturday (November 25) afternoon, in Louisiana.
The Coyotes (7-4) are one of five Missouri Valley Conference teams to qualify for the 24-team field. Despite losing four of five to end the regular season, the strength of the MVFC schedule, plus an FBS win at Bowling Green and a win over playoff bound Western Illinois all paid dividends for USD in the committee's eyes.
Nicholls State (8-3) won six of their last seven to finish third in the Southland Conference.
The Colonels are a run-first team on offense and have picked up nearly 650 yards on the ground over the last two weeks. Tahj Smith has picked up 261 of those yards.
Four different players have gained 100 yards or more in a game this season, but injuries have been a issue for the running game. Leading rusher Kyran Irvin did not play last week and second leading rusher Dontrell Taylor returned last week after missing three games.
Quarterback Chase Fourcade has the ability to run the ball as well, and can spread it around when he goes to the air. Seven different Nicholls players have 30 or more catches in 2017.
Defensively, the Colonels have players who can get to the opposing quarterback.
Nicholls has 31 sacks in all, with four different players notching five or more. That pressure pays off in the secondary, where eight different players have picked off a pass in 2017.
That's the good news for the Colonels on the turnover front. The bad news? Nicholls is minus-ten overall in turnovers and has lost 12 fumbles in 11 games.
Kickoff in Thibodaux is 3:00 PM, Saturday.
In last Saturday's (November 18) 31-28 loss to South Dakota State, the Coyotes put up more than 580 yards of total offense, but were unable to take advantage of some opportunities, falling to the Jackrabbits for the sixth straight year at the DI level.
USD forced an interception and stopped a fake field goal, but could not convert either chance into points. The Coyotes also had first and goal from the SDSU eight-yard line, but came away empty handed.
South Dakota also had a touchdown called back and had a fourth quarter drive stopped with a fumble inside the SDSU 25.
I talked with head coach Bob Nielson about the South Dakota State loss and the match-up with Nicholls State: