MARSHALL, Minn. (USF) – With a 35-point outburst in the second half, spurred by a big-play defense plus a career-high 136 yards and two TDs rushing from Landon Freeman, the University of Sioux Falls Football Team (4-2, 2-0 NSIC South) rolled to a 35-7 win over Southwest Minnesota State (2-4, 1-1 NSIC South) on Saturday.
The Cougars upended SMSU for a ninth straight time and now have a 10-3 series lead. USF also turned back SMSU on its homecoming for a third time, which has won two straight games, sits at the top of the NSIC South Division (tied with Wayne State at 2-0) and is tied for fourth overall in the league standings. With the road win, USF is now 36-11 all-time in the NSIC and they also earned a 73rd NSIC victory.
With the game deadlocked at 0-0 after two quarters, the Cougars made big plays on both offense and defense to turn a nail biter into a comfortable margin of victory. USF had a defensive TD plus four offensive scores to separate from SMSU.
USF Head Coach Jon Anderson, who won his 28th game at USF, was pleased with the team’s ability to remain patient and take care of business in the second half.
“We clarified some things at halftime. The coaches came into the locker room with a game plan, shared it with the team and then they took it out and executed it to perfection,” said Anderson, whose team will host U-Mary on Saturday at 1 pm on Oct. 16 at Bob Young Field. “I was proud of this team tonight. It is a very rewarding win as they stayed focused and worked through things to bring this home,” Anderson told USF radio announcers Tom Frederick and Tim Hiatt in a post-game interview.
Freeman, a redshirt sophomore from Sioux Falls, had his second 100-yard rushing game of his career. Freeman, who had 19 carries for 105 yards and a TD against Concordia St. Paul in week two, had nine carries for a career-high 136 yards and scored two TDs. He scored on runs of 20 and a career-high 69 yards as he averaged 15.1 yards per rush. USF also received 32 yards on seven carries with a TD from redshirt freshman Jacqueze Lockett.
USF totaled 353 yards in total offense on 52 plays for 6.79 per play. Of that total, USF rushed for 175 yards on 29 carries for a 6.0 average. Redshirt freshman quarterback Adam Mullen continued his outstanding freshman campaign by completing 15-of-23 passes (65.2 percent) for 178 yards and a TD and interception. Senior wide receiver Dominic Pegley had a team-high five receptions for 53 yards and a TD. He now leads USF with 34 catches for 424 yards and four TDs this season. Senior Ty Smith added two catches for 47 yards and junior tight end Benjamin Sokup added two catches for 45 yards.
While SMSU held a 35:50 to 24:10 time of possession advantage, they were held under 300 yards in total offense by the USF defense. The Mustangs had just 287 yards on 84 plays for a 3.42 average. USF’s defense had a solid game from the opening snap as they had four interceptions for 166 yards plus three sacks. The interceptions total was the most since picking off four in a 51-13 win at Augustana on Sept. 22, 2018. In addition, the 166 yards in interception returns is the most by USF in the DII era.
Senior defensive end Joey Wehrkamp had one of the three sacks and picked up the 12th of his career. He finished with five tackles and now has 113 in his career which includes 27 TFL as he added another one today. Senior defensive back Dorian Fedrick led USF in tackles for the second time this year and finished with nine, including seven solo stops. He had his second sack of the season and now has 5.5 TFLs.
In the secondary, USF standouts including redshirt sophomore Carter Lohr had a career-best two interceptions for a career-high 109 yards in returns which is a USF DII record. Also coming up a first in the secondary was senior Lee Pitts, who had his first interception at USF and he return 57 yards for a TD. In addition, Chris Hill also had his first interception at USF.
Scoring Breakdown –
After a scoreless first half when USF and SMSU combine for 221 yards in total offense, the scoring broke out in the third quarter.
USF took the opening drive 78 yards in nine plays with Mullen connecting for four yards to Pegley for a 7-0 lead with 10:43 to play in the third quarter. On the ensuing SMSU possession, senior defensive back Lee Pitts picked off his first interception at USF and took it 57 yards as USF took a 14-0 lead.
However, SMSU answered as they tried to rally on their homecoming. The Mustangs had a 10-play, 73-yard scoring drive which used 4:05 to draw within, 14-7, at the 3:46 mark. Jesse Sherwood, who had 14 carries for 88 yards, scored on a 14-yard run to give the Mustangs life.
Early in the fourth quarter, USF’s defense stepped up again as Lohr had his first career interception and return it 70 yards. On the ensuing offensive drive, Freeman scored from 20 yards to give USF a 21-7 lead with 13:50 to play.
After the USF defense held SMSU to a three-and-out, Freeman struck gold again. On a second and five play, he raced a career-long 69 yards as the Cougars pushed their lead to 28-7. With 7:53, Lohr had another interception and this time a 39-yard return to set up another USF score. With 3:53 to play, Lockett’s five-yard TD run and Nicholas Hernandez’s fifth straight extra point gave USF a 35-7 lead. Lockett’s score capped an eight-play, 55-yard scoring drive.