VERMILLION, S.D. (USD) — South Dakota lost its quarterback in the first half and didn’t recover in suffering a 20-14 setback to Illinois State in Saturday’s Missouri Valley Football Conference contest inside the DakotaDome.
Carson Camp, the Coyotes starting quarterback left the game after taking a nasty hit in the second quarter and didn’t return to the contest. Cole Stenstrom, a redshirt freshman, came on in relief of Camp and nearly led a final drive comeback.
South Dakota trailed 20-7 in the fourth quarter before cutting the lead to six on a Travis Theis short touchdown run.
The Coyote defense got a stop and gave the ball back to the offense with just under seven minutes left.
Stemstrom hit Brett Samson on the first play of the drive for a big gain up to midfield and South Dakota would eventually drive to the Illinois State nine-yard line.
However, just like earlier in the season against Missouri State, the Coyotes failed to convert with a first-and-goal situation as a fourth down run from Stenstrom was stopped short of the goal line.
South Dakota, thanks to its defense who came up with another stop, had one last opportunity with a 1:40 to go and the ball at midfield. Stenstrom, though, was picked off as Illinois State would seal a big road win.
“Definitely not pleased with the outcome, but very pleased with the way our guys fought to the end,” coach Bob Nielson said. “A tough way to lose when you have the opportunity to put the ball in the endzone there at the end of the game and you don’t get it done.
“We’re dealing with a lot of injuries right now, which is not a good thing, but you still got to find a way to make plays.”
Illinois State led 13-7 at halftime, getting a field goal on its first offensive possession of the contest and closing the half with a long field goal from Aida Bresnahan. In between the Redbirds scored on a 69-yard touchdown run from Cole Mueller.
The field goal, a 42-yarder, came on the possession immediately following South Dakota cutting the lead to 10-7 on a seven-yard pass from Stenstrom to Brett Samson.
Illinois State, though, pushed the lead to 20-7 early in the third quarter on an interception return for a touchdown from Kenton Wilhoit.
“That’s a really good defensive football team,” said Nielson. “Nobody has scored a lot of points against them and we knew it was going to be tough.
“Then, when you give them an interception return for a touchdown and obviously, the big play.”
South Dakota outgained Illinois State 269-245, but the Redbirds rushed for 161 yards and controlled the ball for 32 minutes.
The Coyotes committed three turnovers to none for Illinois State, making it tougher to complete the comeback in front of 5,415 fans on hand.
“With the score and having to try to match that with a quarterback that truly is getting his first plays is difficult,” said Nielson. Cole did some good things, obviously, you can’t throw two interceptions.
“He made some plays and certainly be better as a result of this experience.”
Stenstrom finished 11 of 24 for 125 yards and a touchdown while Theis ended up with 71 yards on 16 carries. Samson, Caleb Vander Esch and Carter Bell all caught three passes apiece in the setback.
Jack Cochrane had 11 tackles, including one sack and one tackle for loss while Jacob Matthew had two sacks for the second straight game.
The defense, though, played without DeValon Whitcomb and Brendan Webb went out in the first half and never returned.
South Dakota has an off week, to try and get healthier, before traveling to Western Illinois in its next contest on Nov. 6.