VERMILLION, S.D. (USD) – South Dakota led top-ranked North Dakota State 17-10 at halftime, but the Bison used a dominant second half to earn a 34-17 win Saturday inside the DakotaDome in the conference opener for both teams.
North Dakota State (3-1, 1-0 MVFC) ran the ball 61 times for 356 yards and four touchdowns. South Dakota (1-3, 0-1) ran 55 plays total for 265 yards. The result was a lopsided time of possession that was 40 minutes to 20 minutes in favor of the Bison.
South Dakota had 11 possessions in the final three quarters of the game. Neither reached two minutes in length. Half of the Coyotes’ four turnovers came on the first possession of a drive.
That’s not to say it was all for naught. It was two quick strikes by South Dakota in the final minutes of the first half that put the Coyotes in the lead. Quarterback Carson Camp and running back Travis Theis accounted for all 50 yards on a drive Theis capped with a 2-yard touchdown plunge that tied the game at 10-10 with 58 seconds left in the second quarter. Linebacker Brock Mogensen forced a fumble on the first play of the Bison’s next possession and Camp hit receiver Wesley Eliodor in stride for a 28-yard touchdown that gave USD its second lead of the game.
The second half belonged to running back Hunter Luepke and the NDSU offensive line. Luepke ran 15 times for 118 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. He carried 20 times for 146 yards in all. Kobe Johnson had 68 yards and a score on 14 totes. Dominic Gonnello added 48 yards on the ground.
Bison quarterback Cam Miller capped the opening possession of the second half with a 13-yard scamper on a 3rd-and-1 play that tied the game at 17-17. Theis dropped two screen passes on the Coyotes’ first possession of the half and NDSU pounced. They took the ball back and marched 84 yards on nine plays capped by a 2-yard Luepke score that put NDSU ahead 24-17 with 5:22 left in the third quarter.
That score held until the 8:27 mark of the fourth quarter. Griffin Crosa kicked a 25-yard field that made it 27-17 after NDSU drove 71 yards on 15 plays on a drive that drained more than seven minutes.
South Dakota’s best try to get back into it followed. Wesley Eliodor returned the kickoff to the 35 and Shomari Lawrence broke through for a 30-yard run to get to the NDSU 35. But two plays later, Camp fumbled on a designed draw and NDSU recovered near midfield. Seven plays later, Luepke was back in the end zone to seal the win.
Theis (63 yards), Camp (41) and Lawrence (40) led a South Dakota ground game that totaled 145 yards and averaged 5.0 yards per carry. It was the passing game that couldn’t get going. Camp completed mostly screen passes to the tune of 120 yards. He was 13-of-26 and threw two interceptions. Theis caught six passes for 35 yards. Eliodor led South Dakota with 51 yards on two catches.
Defensively, Mogensen had a game-high 12 tackles and Stephen Hillis fought back from an injury sustained last week to net 10. Cornerback Myles Harden, who had accounted for all four of the Coyotes’ turnovers through three games, forced two more Saturday. He intercepted Miller in the end zone to stop the Bison’s first possession of the game. He forced a fumble near midfield halfway through the second quarter that helped flip field position that paid off later as the half progressed. Harden also totaled eight tackles.
South Dakota is off next week. The Coyotes return Oct. 8 to face South Dakota State in Brookings, South Dakota.