We reach the midway point of the 2019 Missouri Valley Conference schedule this weekend and South Dakota is back home hoping to regroup after a disappointing road loss.

USD (3-4/2-1 MVFC) will host Southern Illinois, Saturday (October 26) at the DakotaDome.

The Salukis (3-4/1-2 MVFC) come to Vermillion on a high after snapping a three-game losing streak with a 35-10 win over 18th ranked Youngstown State last week.

The Southern Illinois offense dominated the usually tough Penguin defense, running the ball 52 times for 189 yards.

The Salukis have a number of rushing options with the conference's reigning offensive player of the week, Javon Williams, who ran for 138 yards and a score against Youngstown, Romeir Elliott, who is eighth in the MVC in rushing after three games, and DJ Davis, who just returned last week after missing two games with an injury. Davis ran for 121 yards against USD last season.

Coyotes head coach Bob Nielson told me Southern Illinois is all about the ground game:

On the other side of the ball, the Salukis are coached by former USD defensive coordinator Jason Petrino. They feature the number-one pass defense in the Missouri Valley, thanks to lineman Anthony Knighton (3.5 sacks), Chucky Sullivan (3 sacks), and Jordan Berner (3 sacks) getting pressure up front and talented safety Jeremy Chinn roaming the defensive backfield.

The Southern Illinois pressure was on display last week with nine sacks against Youngstown State. Neilson says the Salukis took advantage of a big lead to tee off on the Penguin quarterbacks:

Another key match-up Saturday will be the two punters.

USD's Brady Schutt leads the Valley with a 45-yard average while Southern Illinois' Jack Colquhoun has three of the seven longest punts in the league this season, including an 80-yarder.

Kickoff is 4:00 PM, Saturday in Vermillion.

Last week (October 19), the Coyotes snapped a three-game winning streak with a 42-27 loss at Northern Iowa.

USD got off to a great start with Kam Cline forcing a Panther fumble on the UNI 27, which was quickly converted into points on a Kai Henry touchdown run.

The rest of the first quarter was an offensive showcase for both teams, with each unit matching the other on big play after big play and when the dust settled, the Coyotes had a 21-14 lead despite turning the ball over twice in the first 15 minutes.

Nielson the early shootout was quite a surprise for two very good defensive teams:

South Dakota came out of the locker room after halftime with a 24-21 lead, but turned it over three times on six second-half possessions, managing just a field goal in the final 30 minutes. USD finished the game with a season-high six giveaways.

Nielson says the numerous mistakes caused his team to press:

Back home this week, the Coyotes know that a win keeps them within a game of the top spot in the Missouri Valley Conference standings at the midway point.

Nielson says the takeaway from the Northern Iowa loss is for his team to stop beating themselves: