South Dakota Preview: #23 Coyotes Host Northern Colorado
The game is part of the Missouri Valley Conference - Big Sky Conference challenge, which is now in its second year. Last season, the Coyotes won their lone match-up with a Big Sky opponent, a 45-7 victory over North Dakota.
Northern Colorado (0-1) comes to the DakotaDome after a 17-14 home loss to McNeese State to start the season.
The Bears gave up the first 17 points of the game before rallying with a blocked field goal, forced fumble, and a fourth-quarter touchdown pass and pick six from the defense to fall just short.
UNC won just three games last season as a result of a number of injuries to key players.
One of those is quarterback Jacob Knipp, who saw his first action since last October and threw for 261 yards against McNeese State. Running back Trae Riek is also coming back from injury. He's topped 2,000 yards rushing in his career in Greeley.
Wide receiver Alex Wesley is one of the Bears biggest weapons on offense. He had over 100 yards against McNeese State and was a 1,000 receiver last season. He's got breakaway speed and is an All-American for the UNC track team.
Defensively, the Bears are trying to improve after giving up a lot of points and a lot of yards in 2017.
Safeties Sherand Boyd and Keifer Glau combined for a forced fumble, fumble recovery, interception and blocked field goal in the McNeese State game.
Defensive end Keifer Morris had nine sacks last year, linebacker Henry Stelzner notched 13 tackles in a game twice last season, and cornerback Isaiah Swopes led UNC with three picks in 2017.
Kickoff in Vermillion is 2:00 PM, Saturday.
In the season opener, the Coyotes suffered a 27-24 loss at Kansas State, despite leading much of the game, thanks to a stingy defense and a slew of Wildcat turnovers and penalties.
USD was up 17-12 in the second quarter after an Austin Simmons to Dakarai Allen seven-yard touchdown pass with 1:29 to play and then tacked on another score 20 seconds later when Alex Gray picked off a pass a returned it 25 yards for a touchdown.
After a scoreless third quarter, K-State grabbed the momentum back from USD with an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown from Isaiah Zuber, who added a 10-yard touchdown catch five minutes later to put the Wildcats up by three.
The Coyotes had one final chance to tie the game late after Phillip Powell forced a fumble, which was recovered by Gray on the South Dakota 16 yard line with 50 seconds left.
USD drove the ball to the Kansas State 34 where Mason Lorber's 51-yard field goal attempt came up short as time expired.
In the loss, Coyote quarterback Austin Simmons was 24-of-56 through the air for 257 yards and a score. Levi Falck caught 11 passes for 140 yards.
I talked with Coyotes head coach Bob Nielson about the loss in Manhattan and the match-up with Northern Colorado: