VERMILLION, S.D. (USD) — In a game with 1,238 yards of total offense, it was a late 2-point conversion by Houston Baptist that gave the Huskies a 53-52 win against South Dakota Saturday inside the DakotaDome.
It was the first meeting between the two teams and Houston Baptist’s first-ever game against a member of the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The Huskies (2-1) pulled out the win behind quarterback Bailey Zappe, who passed for 513 yards and five touchdowns. He had three 100-yard receivers in Ben Ratzlaff (12 rec., 155 yds), Jerreth Sterns (10 rec., 114 yds) and Gamar Girdy Brito (9 rec., 103 yds).
South Dakota quarterback Austin Simmons set program, single-game records for yards, completions and attempts. He was 48 of 65 for 537 yards and four touchdowns. It was his second collegiate game with four touchdown passes.
The Coyotes (0-3) had two 100-yard receivers. Caleb Vander Esch caught seven passes for a career-best 103 yards and a score. Randy Baker tied a program record with 11 catches and totaled a career-high 102 yards. Tight end Connor Herrmann had six catches, 76 yards and two touchdowns.
South Dakota led 24-17 at the half, but the Huskies scored touchdowns on four consecutive possessions in the second half to grab a 45-38 advantage. USD quickly countered with a 2-yard touchdown run by Kai Henry to tie the game at 45-45 with 11:36 left, and Henry’s 23-yard scamper around the right end put the Coyotes back in front 52-45 with 3:03 play.
But Zappe played pitch-and-catch with Sterns and Ratzlaff back down the field to reach the Coyote 5, before handing off to Ean Beek to get to the 1. The wildcat back, Dreshawn Minnieweather, reached the end zone from there to make it 52-51 Coyotes with 1:14 on the clock.
Houston Baptist called timeout before setting up the two-point try. Zappe rolled to his left, pitch back to Ratzlaff who threw all the way back to his right to a wide open Coleman Robinson, who lined up as the tight end on the right side. Robinson engaged with the defensive end at the snap, and snuck off to the right before receiving a strike from Ratzlaff.
South Dakota got the ball back with one timeout and used it when Andre Walker sacked Simmons for the fourth time in the contest. It set up a 2nd-and-20 from USD’s 30 with 52 seconds left.
On the next play, Simmons was flushed from the pocket by Walker and rolled to his right before throwing on the run downfield, but the pass was intercepted by Tra Fluellen. It was the second turnover of the game for USD, which lost a fumble inside the red zone on the opening possession of the game.
Houston Baptist’s win came despite three interceptions from Zappe and 19 penalties that cost the Huskies 154 yards. South Dakota registered a program-record 43 first downs in the contest and nine were by penalty. USD was flagged nine times for 77 yards and Houston Baptist netted 32 first downs.
Coyote safety Phillip Powell intercepted Zappe twice in the first half and USD turned the second of those into a touchdown drive and 17-7 lead. Elijah Reed picked off Zappe inside the 5 in the fourth quarter and returned the pick to the USD 40 with 4:34 left. That led to Henry’s third touchdown run of the game at the 52-45 lead.
Henry ran 15 times for a season-best 78 yards to lead all rushers. It was the first three-touchdown game of his career. The Coyotes finished with 105 yards on the ground to the Huskies’ 83. Five quarterback sacks of Simmons went for 28 yards.
USD continues play next weekend with a trip to Greeley, Colorado, to face the Northern Colorado Bears in a 2 p.m. MDT kick from Nottingham Field. The Bears (0-2) are competing at Sacramento State Saturday evening in California.