VERMILLION, S.D. (KELO) — The USD football team ranks ninth in the FCS in scoring defense, giving up just over 16 points per game.

During the Yotes’ five-game winning streak, they have held their opponents below 20 points four times. That includes two games in which they kept the other team out of the endzone entirely. In the last three games, they have outscored the opposition 59-13 in the first half.

“We want to make teams earn it,” USD Defensive Coordinator Travis Johansen said. “When you’re up multiple scores, you’re playing with house money a little bit. And you can you can do that and play, you know, to shorten fields and play for the next possession more than having to get off for this one.”

USD’s defense has improved dramatically from a season ago, when it allowed more than 29 points per game. They are also holding opponents to 80 fewer yards a contest. The key: preventing big gains on one play.

“Eliminating explosive plays,” USD senior linebacker Brock Mogensen said. “Last week against Youngstown State, we gave up a couple, but in the first five games, we didn’t give up many explosive plays. So I think that’s been a really big thing that we’ve been hitting on every week.”

Instead of focusing on the big task of stopping the opposition. Each player focuses on his own individual responsibility or simply put, his one-11th.

“One thing we always talk about every week is doing our one-11th, just playing our base ball,” Mogensen said. “I think that guys have done a great job. Our coaches have kind of put that our minds every week.”

“When you have an individual job, and that job, if you don’t do that, one certainly doesn’t matter how the 10 others go,” Johansen said. “And so I think sometimes when you lose focus on your job, trying to use somebody else’s, you know, it waters down the product.”

The Coyotes have surged in the latest national polls and have received their highest ranking in six years, but they are keeping their attention on the next game.

“The most important game is the next game,” USD senior linebacker Stephen Hillis said. “We always say in the linebacker room, 1-0 mentality. You just got to win, win the next game. That’s all that matters. None of games in the past matter of the games. None of the games in the future matter. All that matters is this one game. You do everything you can to get ready for it.”

The Coyotes hit the road for a showdown with Indiana State this Saturday, and you can watch the game on KELOXTRA at noon.