SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO)- Augustana narrowly lost to Bemidji State back on October 5th, but have won six straight games to build their longest win streak since 2010. Now the Vikings have found themselves at 9-2 and in the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
“It feels great. It’s a culmination of a lot of work that went in and I’m really proud of our coaching staff for putting our kids in a position to be successful. I’m ultimately proud of our kids for continuing to believe and taking it one week at a time and understanding that this is a process and when you do it right, it works out for you. So, we’re blessed,” Augustana football coach Jerry Olszewski said.
“We’re just buying more time to be together as a family and that’s been something really crucial to us is how our team is really family based and how we want to keep playing. I think that’s going to be the best thing going with us into the playoff game,” Augustana defensive lineman Logan Swanson said.
The Vikings are off to their best start since 2015 and much of that success can be credited to the Augustana defense that ranks 6th in the country in scoring defense as the Vikings are allowing less than 15 points per game.
“We’ve been consistent, I think we don’t ask any player to do too much. Just do your job, your part, do your 1/11th and in the process of doing that, I think we have really finite examples of how we go about doing things. We don’t over complicate it, here’s what they do well, here’s what we want to take away, here’s how we’re going to do it and then let the kids play and we play fast,” Olszewski said.
“We just have a standard and no matter who’s in and who’s out, it’s the standard that we live too and we do everything we can to hit that standard of, we’re going to be a dominate defense and we’re going to do our best to do that,” Swanson said.
The Vikings will cross paths with 10-1 Colorado State Pueblo on Saturday in Pueblo, Colorado, with kick-off set for 1:00 mountain time.
“Well, they’re number one in the nation in turnover margin. They take it away and they don’t give it away very often. They’re number five in the country defensively, very stout defense across the board and offensively, I think they’re very balanced and they’ll take what you give them. I think we’re two evenly matched teams really, and it’s going to be a situation of who gets a couple more possessions, who flips the field a few more times and then a big play or two is going to separate the score in this one,” Olszewski said.
Augustana isn’t the only team in Sioux Falls that is playoff bound as USF has found themselves in the postseason for the first time since 2017. The Cougars lost to Augustana back on September 26th, but have won six of their last seven contests to land a spot in the playoffs.
“It’s amazing to be in the playoffs, 2017 was kind of up in the air but we had a good feeling about it and this year it was anything could happen. So to go in on Sunday and watch the selection show and find out we were going to Colorado, it was amazing. It was a great experience, we’re all excited and we can’t wait to see what happens,” USF redshirt senior safety Tucker Stout said.
“It’s rewarding for these guys, especially with some of the early season losses, where we’ve been back against the wall all season long and that’s been something that we’ve had to overcome, but I think it’s also been a push to overcome that and understand what our margin of error was and how we needed to play and it’s really elevated this team’s play in the back half of the season,” USF football coach Jon Anderson said.
The Cougars had a stretch in October and November where the team won five straight games. During that stretch, USF allowed only 8 points per game, which has landed them in 2nd in the country for total defense.
“They believe in each other, first and foremost. They believe in the coaches and they believe in working their tails off and those three things are a recipe for success as there’s obviously talent on that side of the football. Just the way that they prepare and the way they go out and take care of their individual assignments and knowing how every one fits into that whole thing,” Anderson said.
“They tell us, do this and if you do it right we’re going to be in the right spot and our coaching staff is fantastic for that. We just got to make sure that we go out every day and do the right thing relative to that call and just trust in each other. I think that was a big thing in the off season, was getting good chemistry on our defense,” Stout said.
The Cougar offense has had their share of success as well as USF finds itself 28th in the country in scoring offense as the Coo have scored nearly 37 points per contest. That success can be credited to quarterback Caden Walters who is the 11th in the country in quarterback efficiency.
“He’s elevated his play, he’s completing a high percentage of his passes, moving the sticks with his feet and we’ve turned him loose a little bit in that way. So, a ton of confidence in what he’s doing, from him and also from our staff and it’s combined to be a really good mixture for us,” Anderson said.
The Coo will travel to Golden, Colorado to play Colorado School of Mines on Saturday, with kick-off at noon, mountain time.
“Coming out of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference where they won that championship this year with an unblemished record. Really balanced between offense and defense and one of the best defenses in the country and they’re scoring a ton of points. This time of year, you’re not going to change who you are and I’m not expecting them to change who they are and it’s a matter of position your kids for success and letting them go out and play in a playoff environment,” Anderson said.
This is the first time since 2015 that both USF and Augustana have made the playoffs in the same season.