Five Coyotes on all-Valley team; five more earn honorable mention

Sports

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (USD) — Five South Dakota Coyotes were voted to the 2021 All-Missouri Valley Football Conference Team as selected by the league’s head coaches, sports information directors and members of the media.

Senior linebacker Jack Cochrane and junior long snapper Dalton Godfrey are first-team selections. Junior left tackle Alex Jensen, senior safety Elijah Reed and senior punter Brady Schutt are second-team selections. It is the third time in five years USD has had at least five all-MVFC honorees.

In addition, five Coyotes were named honorable mention: redshirt-freshman running back Travis Theis, senior tight end Brett Samson, senior rush backer Jacob Matthew, sophomore return specialist Wesley Eliodor and redshirt-freshman all-purpose back Carter Bell.

Information on the honorees follows:

Cochrane (Mount Vernon, Iowa) is a two-time all-Valley honoree. He made 39 consecutive starts at linebacker dating back to the first game of the 2018 season. He finished as the program’s sixth-leading tackler with 328. Included in that tally are 5.0 sacks and 23.0 tackles for loss. Cochrane led the Valley in interceptions during the regular season and finished fourth in the balloting for Valley Defensive Player of the Year.

Godfrey (Cedar Falls, Iowa) has served as long snapper for each of the last four seasons. He is a two-time all-Valley honoree. He has been the snapper for the best punter in program history in Schutt, and helped Mason Lorber to 10 consecutive made field goals over weeks 2-9 and 13 field goals overall. Godfrey has helped the Coyotes rank 10th nationally in net punting after leading the nation in that category last spring.

Jensen (Plymouth, Minn.) is South Dakota’s first all-Valley offensive lineman since Stetson Dagel in 2017. Jensen has started 28 consecutive games at left tackle. He is the top lineman for a team that ranked fourth in the Valley and 28th nationally in rushing at 176 yards per game during the regular season. The Coyotes were the fourth-highest scoring team in Valley play at 27 points per game.

Reed (Aurora, Colo.) is South Dakota’s first all-Valley defensive back since Andrew Gray in 2018. Reed was the only player with four forced fumbles in Valley play. He started all 12 games this season and played in 47 as a Coyote. He was USD’s third-leading tackler this season with 77 stops. He was second on the team with two interceptions and was credited with three pass breakups.

Schutt (Orange City, Iowa) joins Darin Greenfield as the Coyotes’ three-time all-Valley honorees. He concludes a five-year playing career with a program-record punting average of 43.2 yards per boot. Schutt has ranked fourth in the FCS in punting average each of the last two years. He is 10th this year with a 44.2 average due in part to a league-best 25 punts pinned inside the 20. No other Valley punter had a higher percentage of pins. He also drew a fair catch on 30 of his 58 punts this season.

Theis (Pratt, Kan.) played in 11 of 12 games and rushed for 677 yards and a team-high eight touchdowns. He also caught 18 passes during the year for 154 yards. He finished with the eighth-most rushing yards amongst Valley backs and with the seventh-most touchdowns. Highlighting his efforts were back-to-back 100-yard rushing games in wins against North Dakota and Northern Iowa in which he totaled 251 yards and a score.

Samson (Oconomowoc, Wis.) earned all-Valley honors in 2019. He has competed in all 52 games over the last five seasons, totaling 86 catches for 997 yards with 14 touchdowns. He also rushed for a score. He finished this season as the Coyotes’ third-leading receiver with 22 catches for 297 yards and four touchdowns.

Matthew (Omaha, Neb.) led South Dakota in both sacks and tackles-for-loss for the third consecutive season. In three seasons under coordinator Travis Johansen, Matthew made 152 tackles with 13.5 sacks and 25.5 tackles-for-loss. He was the Coyotes’ fourth-leading tackler this season with 71 stops including 7.0 sacks and 10.5 TFL. He also had an interception, recovered a fumble and had four pass breakups.

Eliodor (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) led a kick return unit that ranks second nationally at 28.0 yards per return. He became the first Coyote since 2008 to return a kickoff for a touchdown with his 99-yard return against Missouri State in week four. His 28.7-yard return average on the year ranks 10th nationally. He also caught nine passes for 108 yards and a touchdown.

Bell (Bettendorf, Iowa) was South Dakota’s leading receiver this season with 41 catches for 673 yards and five touchdowns. He also served as the team’s punt returner and became the first Coyote since 2006 to return a punt for a touchdown with his 47-yarder against North Dakota State two weeks ago. A former high school quarterback, Bell surpassed 1,000 yards receiving in Saturday’s playoff game against Southern Illinois (1,011).

South Dakota finished its season with a 7-5 record which includes a program-best 5-3 mark in Valley play. The Coyotes advanced to the NCAA playoffs for the sixth time in program history, hosted its first FCS playoff game and competed in the FCS playoffs for the second time.

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