Vermillion, South Dakota — USD rebounded from a close loss at Kansas by blowing out Northern Arizona at home Saturday.
South Dakota enters Saturday fresh off a 34-7 win against another Big Sky foe in Northern Arizona. The Coyotes led 17-0 after three possessions and less than 10 minutes into the game. It was 27-0 at halftime and 34-0 following a 51-yard interception return by Jonathan Joanis on the opening possession of the second half. Travis Theis ran 12 times for 74 yards and two touchdowns while quarterback Carson Camp passed for 213 yards and a score.
The main storyline through two games is the play of the Coyote defense under third-year defensive coordinator Travis Johansen. The 24 points allowed in two games ranks second in the Valley to NDSU and 13th nationally. The unit has been particularly stingy against the run. Scrambling quarterbacks were the top rushers for Kansas and Northern Arizona. Opposing running backs have totaled 68 yards on 45 handoffs. Those numbers don’t include 33 yards on two plays at the end of the first half Saturday against a max prevent defense.
The defensive success starts up front with the defensive line where nose tackle DeValon Whitcomb serves as nose tackle. Rush backer Jacob Matthew is fourth on the team in tackles with 10, but defensive ends Brendan Webb and Nick Gaes stand with nine each. Their play has opened up tackling lanes for all-Valley linebackers and leading tacklers Jack Cochrane (23) and Brock Mogensen (16) who have combined for a sack and six tackles for loss.
The threat Saturday, though, will mostly come through the air. The Mustangs have totaled 537 yards passing with just 99 gained through the ground. University of California transfer Spencer Brasch threw for 316 yards and two scores in a season-opening win at San Diego and 212 yards, a score and a pick in a 63-10 loss at Fresno State last week. Fresno State transfer Chris Coleman has caught eight passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns through two weeks.
The Coyote passing game is in the hands of freshman quarterback Carson Camp, who made his debut last spring and has six collegiate starts under his belt. Camp rebounded from a 98-yard performance against Kansas to throw for 213 yards and a touchdown toss last week against Northern Arizona. Only one Coyote pass catcher – redshirt freshman Carter Bell – has more than four catches and has topped 50 yards through two games.
South Dakota has led the Valley in passing the last three full seasons, but it’s the Coyote ground game that has a 323-320 lead through two weeks. Running backs Travis Theis and Shomari Lawrence have combined for 261 yards and four scores on 50 carries. Rutgers transfer Johnathan Lewis has spelled Camp at quarterback and saw his name called more last week at home. Lewis ran five times for 19 yards and completed his first pass of the season against the Lumberjacks.
The Coyotes will have freshman cornerback Myles Harden back for a full game Saturday to help combat Cal Poly’s air attack. Harden led the FCS in passes defended as a true freshman last spring. He was flagged for a controversial targeting call that prevented Kansas from having to run a fourth-down play while trailing 14-10 late in the fourth quarter. Harden could not compete in the first half of Saturday’s game against Northern Arizona.
Punter Brady Schutt and long snapper Dalton Godfrey are the preseason all-Americans on special teams, but last week it was senior kicker Mason Lorber who grabbed the headlines. Lorber was solid on field goal makes of 41 and 44 yards in the first half against Northern Arizona. Perhaps equally important, all seven of his kickoffs were sent into the end zone for touchbacks.
Speaking of special teams, the Coyote offense got a jump last week from Wesley Eliodor who returned the opening kickoff 49 yards to setup the team’s first touchdown strike. Carter Bell returned the first NAU punt 18 yards to set up a four-play touchdown drive that made it 14-0. Of Eliodor’s six career kickoff returns, one has gone for 49 yards and another for 69.