VERMILLION, S.D. (USD) — Sixth-ranked South Dakota overcame a touchdown on the opening kickoff and two turnovers near the goal line to beat 10th-ranked North Dakota 14-10 on senior day Saturday inside the DakotaDome.
It was the Coyotes’ second win against a top-10 team in as many weeks and the fourth victory against a nationally-ranked foe this season. South Dakota (8-2, 6-1 MVFC) has won eight regular season games for the first time at the FCS level. A win next week at winless Western Illinois should secure a top-eight seed, a first-round bye and the second-round home game that comes with it.
North Dakota’s Red Wilson went 99 yards untouched on the opening kickoff for a 7-0 lead. But an offense that came in averaging 34 points per game was stymied by South Dakota and kept out of the end zone for just the second time all season. The Fighting Hawks (6-4, 4-3) will likely need to win at home next week against Illinois State for a chance to make the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons.
South Dakota quarterback Aidan Bouman surpassed 300 yards passing for the second time in his young career. He found Carter Bell seven times for 126 yards and tight end JJ Galbreath five times for 101. It marked the first time since 2019 that the Coyotes had two receivers surpass 100 yards.
South Dakota outgained North Dakota 416-211, but trailed 10-0 at halftime and 10-7 entering the fourth quarter. Bouman and the Coyotes’ offense overcame a 2nd-and-24 and a 2nd-and-25 during a 12-play, 81-yard touchdown drive that Charles Pierre Jr. capped with a 10-yard sweep to the left side for a score and a 14-10 lead with 8:26 to go. Big pass plays to Bell, Galbreath and Tristan Michaud kept the drive alive.
Coyote linebacker Brock Mogensen gobbled up Hawk quarterback Tommy Schuster on a third down play on the ensuing possession to force a quick punt. South Dakota punted back and North Dakota started from its own 22 with 3:20 left. The Hawks moved to the 39 before defensive end Mi’Quise Grace batted down a 4th-and-5 pass with two minutes left that helped secure the win.
North Dakota went 3-and-out three times on five second-half possessions. The Hawks totaled 76 yards and had three first downs past halftime. Josiah Ganues got home on a safety blitz on a 3rd-and-6 play on North Dakota’s only substantive drive. It forced a 46-yard field goal attempt that sailed wide right. It would have given the Hawks a 13-7 lead with 2:19 left in the third quarter.
South Dakota on the other hand had the yards but not the points. Credit North Dakota’s defense which produced several momentum-changing plays. Malachi McNeal stopped a fourth-down run by Travis Theis early in the second quarter that ended a 65-yard drive. South Dakota drove to the North Dakota 8 on the opening drive of the second half, but Devin Hembry intercepted a jump ball in the end zone. It was his second pick of the season.
UND linebacker Wyatt Pedigo made arguably the play of the game late in the second quarter. From his own 36, Bouman hit Bell with a beautiful fade along the right sideline that Bell hauled in near North Dakota’s 40. Bell sprinted to the 10 and made a slick cut inside that split two defenders. As Bell rumbled onward, Pedigo caught Bell from behind, stripped the football at the 1 and recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchback.
South Dakota had nearly 200 yards on three first-half possessions, but was scoreless. The Coyotes reached the end zone on their second drive of the second half when Keyondray Jones ran in from 2 yards out. A 14-yard punt return by Bell helped start that possession in Hawk territory.
Theis ran 17 times for a game-high 66 yards and Isaiah Smith had 58 yards on 10 runs for North Dakota. Bouman was 20-of-28 for 307 yards. Schuster had 116 yards while completing 16-of-24. Both defenses produced two sacks.
It was the ninth meeting at the FCS level for the former NCC foes. The home team has won all nine games.