VERMILLION, S.D. (KELO) — The USD football team will open its season at home for the first time since 2013 Saturday, welcoming 25th-ranked Montana to the DakotaDome.
USD enters Saturday’s matchup against the Grizzlies with a brand new defense. While the new look Coyote “D” may be an unknown, they know their primary objective will be slowing down Montana QB Dalton Sneed, who led the team in rushing, and accounted for 28 total touchdowns last season.
“We got to have ways in which we can put pressure on him, at the same time keep him in the pocket,” USD Head Coach Bob Nielson said.
“Not popping out of gaps, and then giving him a lane to step up and make a nice throw, or give him a lane to step up and run 10 to 12 yards. Eliminating those plays will put the defense in a really great spot,” USD Senior Lineman Darin Greenfield said.
USD’s secondary will be tested by a pair of standout wide receivers in Jerry Louie-McGee and preseason All-American Samuel Akem, who hauled in 13 TD’s in 2018.
“There’s going to be times when those corners are going to be on an island out there, and they’ve got to do a good job of matching up with those wide receivers. And at other times, situations where we’ll try to give them a little help,” Nielson said.
For the Coyotes offense, they’ll need to know where Montana linebacker Dante Olson is at all times. The 2018 FCS Defensive Player of the Year finalist tallied 151 tackles, six sacks, forced 3 fumbles and collected two interceptions a year ago.
“You’ve got to be able to block him and stay with your blocks. He’s a very good blitzer, and pass rusher. So we’ve got to have, and make sure we know where he is in the scheme, and have a way to account for him in our protection,” Nielson said.
As USD starts its quest for a return trip to the FCS playoffs, getting a top 25 team at home to begin the year gives them a great opportunity to add a signature win to their resume.
“It’s always fun to get a ranked opponent or someone who’s going to challenge you in the first week,” Greenfield said.
“A game that’s going to have a lot of meaning for both ball clubs, and in a place that’s been a great home field advantage for us,” Nielson said.
The Coyotes and Grizzlies square off on Saturday at the DakotaDome. Kickoff is set for 2:00.