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USD: 1st Playoff Game?

This isn’t your father’s Coyote team. Bob Nielson and posse` have rounded up a splendid group of freshman and sophomores that have a sprinkling of key seniors that have transformed the team we ran over (literally, we had 419 yards rushing & 700 total yards) in 2019, to the third ranked defense in the MVFC, just behind UNI (313.5 YPG Total D/UNI to 319.1/USD). In 2019 they were giving up 460.4 YPG, which ranked 114th of 124 FCS teams. That’s a 30% reduction in yards given up per game.

They’ve gone from being a sieve in rushing defense (67/124 2019 FCS) to 12th in the nation, giving up only 97.4 YPG. Scoring defense is even more impressive, falling from 32.4 PPG in 2019 (91st in FCS) to 12th in FCS at 17.4 PPG. Folks, that’s a smidgen away from cutting in half what they gave up the last time they visited the gridiron at the Dome.

Have they changed philosophy? The previous four years they were QB generated offensive teams (Chris Streveler & Austin Simmons). In fact the 2019 offensive squad was 20th in the FCS in total offense, amassing 434 YPG and scoring 30.3 PPG. This year the offensive production is down to 388.1 YPG (45th in FCS) and scoring 29 PPG (44th). They are much more balanced on offense, getting the majority of their rushing yards from two talented freshman RB’s instead of the QB run game. Maybe coach Bob has figured out you don’t win the MVFC with offensive gimmicks and fireworks, but in the trenches on both sides of the ball.

Yes, the Jacks literally blew the game last week and handed the Coyotes the chance to get a Hail Mary, which they cashed in on with one second on the clock for the win, but the substance of this game was that the Coyotes belonged on the field with the Rabbits. They looked and played the part. They held Pierre Strong to 103 yards in 28 carries (only 3.7 YPC). When trailing the Jacks 10-0 in the 1st QTR, they missed a 40 & 36 yard field goals (their kicker was coming off a string of 10 straight FG’s), so the Bunnies weren’t the only team missing opportunities last week.

USD is a lock on a playoff spot. Hopefully the committee places them in line with some Southland team in the opening round (remember MVFC lowest team YSU beat the Southland winner Incarnate Word the 1st game of the season 44-41). After this “upset” they get paired with some Big Sky team and they beat them.

Is this wishful thinking on my part? No, USD beat Big Sky Northern AZ 34-7 and killed Cal-Poly 48-14. The fearsome Montana State Bobcats beat Cal-Poly 45-7, same as USD. Northern AZ ranks 31 teams better than Northern Colorado in Sagarin (Bobcat’s other bottom feeder Big Sky victory), USD dispatched them 34-7. Cats beat UNC 40-7.

USD would be a top rated team in the Big Sky. Remember UND went 8-0 in that league in 2016. It might be in the next millennium UND does that in the MVFC. Moral of the story on USD thus far is if the Herd takes them lightly, we will get rolled!

What are the statistical gems ole Dober has unearthed for your Bison sports culinary appetite?

First and foremost, after 10 games each and six common MVFC opponents, there is much to compare. They both dispatched Indiana State in an easy fashion. It’s called taking care of business. It’s how we played against UND, IL State, UNI, Mo. State and SDSU that counts most in what to expect Saturday.

USD against these five MVFC opponents averaged 346.2 YPG, 147.2 YPG rushing and 22.8 PPG in scoring. This shows how the MVFC is the toughest defensive league top to bottom in the FCS! The Herd averaged 335 YPG TO, 179.2 YPG rushing and 23.2 PPG in scoring. Now that’s what you call a mirror image.

In analyzing the Herd’s offense you have to go with the Quincy games versus the Cam Miller games. UND was a pathetic display of wasted talent on the Herd’s side of the field and suspect offensive coaching. Yes it was that bad when Christian Watson doesn’t get one reception! Quincy was 4-10 for 48 yards (Cam came in for one play on a helmet loss and went 1-1 for 9 yards). The offensive low point came with Mo. State. Trailing 20-13, Miller came to the rescue generating 2 TD’s to win the game in the final QTR.

What I am getting at is there is upside potential with Cam at the helm. The RB’s are counted on to run the ball. We spread the ball around to lots of receivers. Cam keeps the defense honest because he can buy time with his legs to throw the ball and can generate yards in the QB run game. I feel if Cam would have been QB1 for all five games, we would have scored 4-7 points more per game. That is my speculation, but I don’t see any unexpected upside to the Coyote’s offense from what they have shown.

They lost to IL. State because Camp was knocked out of the game early by a flagrant missed “targeting call”, but he was at the helm for the rest of the contests.

Don’t get me wrong, he is a very good QB, especially for a red-shirt freshman (boy did Brock Spack and staff miss on this guy, he’s from Normal, IL). He can keep plays going by being mobile and stays within himself (only 3 INT’s in 218 passes). I don’t think they will try to do QB run with him because he has an injured shoulder. Also, USD’s ground game isn’t pound and ground. It is hit quick lanes, much like UND with Weah. They are more of a rhythm passing game, but do have a deep threat in Carter Bell who is averaging 17.3 yards per catch.

If the Ram’s stay focused and we progress, I like our offense better than theirs. We can pound and ground, we have an NFL quality deep threat, two NFL quality TE’s and the best OL in FCS football and a bevy of good RB’s.

It’s at defense where there is greater separation between the two teams. The Coyotes gave up 336.6 YPG, 117.4 YPG in rushing, 219.2 YPG passing and 21 PPG. Code Green bested every one of these stats. We allowed only 287.8 YPG in total defense, 111.2 YPG rushing, 176.6 passing and 15.4 PPG scoring. We are the better defense by almost a TD per game. The same game plan used at UND is the basic package I think we will need to best USD. Contain the run game and get after the QB. The Coyotes use deeper routes and Camp holds onto the ball longer (he has been sacked 25 times, that’s a LOT!!). Cam has been sacked twice in three games.

The Herd will have to be good on special teams. Their KR guy leads the MVFC in kickoff returns at almost 30 yards/return (we don’t need to do what we did with Mo. State where they got momentum on opening kickoff). He also is a quality punt returner. We also have some weapons there with Watson and Price. They are due to show up again.

In finishing my analysis, I think there is an intangible in the youth factor for USD. Other than the handful of key seniors, nobody else has played in the Dome. It should be sold out and loud! This game really is an opening playoff game for both teams. We are playing to be the sole league Champion and a two seed. They are playing to be league co-champions and maybe a seed (having knocked off both SDSU and NDSU). Every game has a proof point behind it. Ours is can we keep the dominance in the playoffs going against the toughest competition in the land? USD wants to see if they belong in the upper echelons of FCS football.

Vegas has the Herd by about 11 points. I think it is going to be a hard fought game, but we break away in the second half. We have greater depth and it is a home game. Go Bison!!

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