SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (USF) – The University of Sioux Falls Football Team (2-1, 2-1 NSIC) dominated the game on both offense and defense while improving to 2-1 overall and moved into a tie for second in the NSIC South with a 51-7 victory over Southwest Minnesota State (0-3, 0-3 NSIC) at Mattke Field on Saturday (Sept. 21).
USF, which outgained SMSU, 564-to-160 in total yards and had a 358-to-6 edge in rushing yards, controlled the game from the opening whistle.
“I was exceptionally pleased with this team focus and effort,” said USF Head Coach Jon Anderson, who is now 18-8 at USF (18-7 in NSIC games). “We have great leadership from our seniors who showed the way. Plus, we have younger guys when given the opportunity do not disappoint and indeed step up,” added Anderson, whose team will host city rival Augustana in the “Key to the City” game on Thursday, Sept. 26 at Bob Young Field.
If “the next man up” phrase is employed with Anderson’s charges, then they have taken it to the next level. The Cougars were playing without All Americans Gabriel Watson and Hakeem Johnson, and starting defensive tackle David Varges but their replacements stepped up.
Offensively, USF registered its most yards in total offense since rolling up 616 in a win against Upper Iowa last Nov. 2. With Watson out with injury, redshirt sophomore Thuro Reisdorfer and redshirt freshman Ja’Tai Jenkins rushed for over 100 yards for the first time in their careers. And, USF accumulated 358 rushing yards which is the most in a home or road game since the Cougars generated 404 against MSU Moorhead in a 55-21 win last Oct. 20. USF’s 51 points today was also the highest total since that MSUM win. Plus USF, which averaged eight yards per carry (45-358) scored seven rushing touchdowns for the first time since 2009 when the Cougars defeated Concordia (Neb.), 80-0. Also, the last time USF had two backs over 100 yards was Minot State on Sept. 29, 2018 when Gabriel Watson (15-205) and Colton Myles (19-131) surpassed the century mark.
For the third straight game Reisdorfer’s rushing yard total increased as he again reached career-high marks in yards with 113 (13 carries) and rushing touchdowns with four. And, he set a career-best with a 50-yard TD run. But he was just one half of a duo to crash the 100-yard rushing mark. Jenkins had 10 carries for 102 yards and a 51-yard TD, which was a career-best and the first of his young career. He averaged 10.2 yards per carry and Reisdorder was at 8.7. In addition, senior Winston Maxwell had a career-high 17 carries for a career-best 76 yards while Caden Walters had two carries for 56 yards with a career-long TD run of 29 yards. Backup quarterback Mitchell Martin added a 14-yard TD run which the first of his career.
Walters was efficient in throwing the ball as he completed 8-of-11 passes for 166 yards with a career-long 91-yard strike to Karnell Collier, who had just that one reception but has gone over 90 yards in back-to-back games. Jermaine Broadnax led the receivers with three catches for 29 yards while Nate Johnson had two receptions for 45 yards and both Austin Vickers and Clint Sigg hauled in two receptions.
While coordinator Jim Chapin’s offense was humming along, the USF defense, directed by Nick Benedetto had a second straight shutdown performance. In the past two games, they have allowed just two touchdowns and 388 total yards on 124 plays or 3.12 yards per play. Today against SMSU, the Mustangs had a 160 yards on 67 plays or 2.4 yards per play. As for rushing totals, USF completely stymied the SMSU attack as they limited the Mustangs to six yards on 36 attempts or .2 yards per carry. In addition, the defense had a season-best five sacks, registered three interceptions for a second straight week and registered a team-high 12 tackles for loss.
Senior linebacker Brody Grantham was tied with fellow senior captain Tucker Stout with nine tackles. Grantham also had his second career interception and had a team-best 2.5 tackles for loss. Stout had a TFL and four solo stops. Senior safety Ryan Nieman added eight tackles, TFL and picked off the fifth pass of his career. For the second straight week, he electrified the USF faithful with a long return as he came up just short of scoring a TD after a 41-yard return in the first half.
Game Breakdown —
On the opening drive, Walters had a 28-yard run and USF moved to the 26-yard line before junior placekicker Daniel Esparza gave USF a 3-0 lead after connecting on his fourth straight field goal of the season. Kicking against the wind, Esparza’s field goal provided USF with a 3-0 lead with 11:37 to play in the first quarter. Esparza, who was 6-of-6 on PATs, has made all four of his field goals this season.
After USF’s defense shut down the SMSU offense, the Cougars fumbled on the ensuing punt return but things turned out for USF when SMSU snapped two straight snaps over the head of quarterback Paul Herrera which cost them 34 yards and resulted in a punt. But Adien Belt’s punt pinned USF at their own 10-yard line.
It didn’t sway matters for USF’s offense which responded and quickly. After two Reisdorfer’s runs netted 12 total yards, Walter’s connected with a 91-yard pass to Karnell Collier, who had his career-long catch and just came up short of the end zone. One play later Reisdorfer took the ball in from the one-yard line for a 10-0 lead after Esparza’s PAT at the 8:23 mark.
SMSU moved the ball to the USF’s 34-yard line on the ensuing possession but Herrera had a pass intercepted by senior quarterback Parker Gregston whose acrobatic catch on his knees gave USF possession at the 28-yard line. USF didn’t move the ball but the defense came up big on the SMSU possession as Nieman picked off Herrera’s pass at the SMSU 45 and nearly scored, weaving and juking through a wave of tacklers before being brought down at the SMSU four-yard line . One play later Reisdorfer took the ball the final four yards for his second TD and with Esparza’s kick gave USF a 17-0 lead.
USF’s defense came up big again when Grantham picked off Herrera at the SMSU 42-yard line. After Walters hit Jermaine Broadnax with a 17-yard pass and Nate Johnson drew a pass interference penalty inside the five-yard line, Reisdorfer found pay-dirt again on a two-yard run for a 24-0 lead.
The Mustangs were able to get on the scoreboard late in the first half when Herrera connected with Daniel Davis, who had eight receptions for 94 yards, with a 44-yard pass play on a 4th and 15. Trey Sachs scored on a two-yard run with 2:40 left in the half.
USF stymied any SMSU momentum when they forced a three-and-out to start the second half. Then USF’s offense unleashed the talents of their two young running backs. First, after Reisdorfer was breaking in the open and dropped the football, Nate Johnson’s came up with the recovery. Two plays later, Reisdorfer had his career-long 50-yard TD run for a 31-7 edge. On the drive Reisdorfer had 64 yard rushing on three carries.
After another defensive stop which included a sack by Harvey (Michael) Enalls, USF moved the lead to 38-7 (5:16, 3rd quarter) when Walters had his career-long TD rush of 29 yards. Jenkins had two carries for 22 yards and Walters completed a 43-yard pass to Johnson as USF moved the ball 92 yards in seven players while using 3:38 off the clock.
Early in the fourth quarter, the lead by USF grew to 45-7 (13:49, 4th quarter) when Jenkins had his 51-yard scoring run – a career-best — at the 13:49 mark. With the TD Jenkins surpassed 100 yards rushing for the first time in his career and did so with his first-ever rushing TD at the collegiate level.
After replacing the starters, USF continued its offensive production with its second unit. Quarterback Mitchell Martin scored his first career rushing TD from 14 yards out with 6:34 left to play to close out the scoring and give USF their nine straight victory in the series.