Full Game Notes (.pdf) | Kansas Notes (.pdf)
South Dakota (0-0) at Kansas (0-0)
Friday, Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. (CST)
Lawrence, Kan. (Memorial Stadium)
Radio: Coyote Sports Network (John Thayer, Noah Shepard, Carter Woodiel)
Watch Online: ESPN+ (subcription required) (Mark Neely, Barrett Brooks)
Series: Kansas leads 2-0 (won 31-14 in 2013)
About the Coyotes: USD is coming off a 1-3 record during its first spring football season that had its final four games cancelled due to COVID-19 … Carson Camp became the first true freshman QB to start a season opener in recorded history and finished as the Valley’s second-leading passer at 241 ypg … the defense in coordinator Travis Johansen‘s second season produced 11 turnovers in four games, seven of which came in an upset at No. 7 Illinois State in the season opener … specialist Brady Schutt helped lead the nation’s top punt unit … the only starter not to return for this fall is RB Kai Henry, a 2,000-yard career rusher … Travis Theis, Mike Mansaray and Shomari Lawrence are among the young RB unit
About the Jayhawks: UW-Whitewater legend Lance Leipold has replaced Les Miles as coach of Kansas, which finished 0-9 in 2020 … RBs Velton Gardner and Daniel Hishaw combined for close to 600 yards and four scores a year ago … North Texas transfer Jason Bean is contending for the QB spot where freshman Jalon Daniels and senior Miles Kendrick rotated last year … safety Kenny Logan returns as the leading tackler and had half of the team’s four interceptions … the defense produced nine sacks in 2020, but the offense allowed 47 … DE Kyron Johnson had three sacks and totaled 42 stops
-USD has faced an FBS program every (non-COVID) year since 2010 and has wins against Minnesota (2010) and Bowling Green (2017) in that span
–Bob Nielson is one of 13 active NCAA coaches with 200 career victories. He is a two-time national champion and three-time national coach of the year.
-USD has preseason all-Americans in LB Jack Cochrane, P Brady Schutt and LS Dalton Godfrey
-Schutt, Godfrey, Brock Mogensen (LB) and Caleb Vander Esch (WR) are returning all-conference performers
-USD led the Valley in passing in each of the three seasons prior to the COVID-shortened spring season
-New starting RB Travis Theis (Pratt High School) was the 2018 Kansas All-Classes Offensive Player of the Year
The 2021 fall football season begins with a trip to Lawrence, Kansas, to face the Kansas Jayhawks. It is a rematch from a game played eight years ago when the Coyotes led 7-0 after one quarter, trailed 14-7 at halftime and lost 31-14. The two teams combined for 503 yards rushing and just 177 yards passing.
South Dakota has faced four other Big 12 (or former Big Eight) programs in its history. The list includes Oklahoma (last meeting in 2019), Kansas State (2018), Nebraska (1964) and Iowa State (1959). South Dakota led Kansas State 24-12 in the fourth quarter of the 2018 meeting before KSU prevailed 27-24.
Future Coyote schedules include trips to Kansas State (season-opener of 2022), Missouri (season-opener of 2023), Wisconsin (2024) and Iowa State (season-opener of 2025).
USD has been a part of the Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC) since 2012, and has competed at the Division I level since 2009. The MVFC is the premier FCS conference and currently boasts four programs ranked in the top-eight of the preseason polls and six programs in the top-25. Two others are receiving votes.
Since joining the MVFC, 57 percent (55 of 97) of South Dakota’s opponents have been either an FBS program or a nationally-ranked FCS program. The Coyotes have at least one win against a nationally-ranked team every season since 2013.
South Dakota was ranked in the FCS top-25 for two weeks during this past spring season after opening with a 27-20 road win at No. 7 Illinois State.
Head Coach Bob Nielson begins his sixth season with the Coyotes. He led the Coyotes to their first FCS playoffs in year two back in 2017. South Dakota won its debut, a 38-31 win on the road at Nicholls in Louisiana.
The FCS moved its 2020 postseason playoffs to the spring of 2021. The Coyotes played four regular season games in the spring and had four others canceled due to COVID-19. USD forced seven turnovers in beating Illinois State on the road in its season opener back in late February. The team last took the field on March 20 at Youngstown State in Ohio.
The Coyotes debuted a newly remodeled DakotaDome last spring. The $26 million renovation includes two new entrances, a modern concourse and permanent seating on the west side. It also includes a new football locker room and players lounge on the first level, and coaches offices and meeting spaces on the fourth level. Next Saturday will mark the first game inside the new DakotaDome without fan restrictions on attendance.
USD is seeking a return to balance on the offensive side of the ball. South Dakota averaged 31.5 points per game during Nielson’s first four seasons from 2016-19. The short four-game sample in the spring produced 17.8 points per game. The Coyotes have boasted one of the top passing games in the country in recent years, but the running game dropped from 185 yards per game in 2019 to 80 this past spring. Take away 20 sacks and the average rises to 109 yards per game.
Enter Travis Theis, a nucleus of young running backs and the majority from an experiened offensive line that helped produce three 300-yard rushing performances in 2019. Theis averaged better than four yards per carry last spring on 37 touches. Shomari Lawrence and Mike Mansaray were true freshmen a year ago and are anxious to spell Theis when necessary.
From an offensive line standpoint, the Coyotes boast veterans in Alex Jensen at left tackle, Kian Rexroat-Potts at center and Isaac Erbes at right guard. Joey Lombard, who earned two starts in the spring for an injured Mason Scheidegger, is plugged into the left guard spot to start week one. Colton Harberts, who started at right tackle in the final game of the spring season, is scheduled to make his second consecutive start Friday.
Quarterback Carson Camp became the first true freshman in USD recorded history to start a season opener at quarterback and he accounted for all three touchdowns in leading the Coyotes to a 27-20 upset at Illinois State in the spring season opener. Camp went on to rank in the top-20 nationally in passing yards per game (16th), completions per game (16th) and completion percentage (19th).
Camp’s receiving corps includes two-time all-Valley honoree Caleb Vander Esch, all-Valley tight end Brett Samson, and speedsters Kody Case and Carter Bell. Only injuries have stopped Case in recent seasons. Bell, in place of Case, was USD’s leading receiver in three of four games last spring.
South Dakota’s defense held foes to 20.5 points per game this past spring and helped produce the fifth-best turnover margin in the nation. The unit recovered six fumbles, picked off five passes and accumulated seven sacks in just four games. The focus during the offseason includes being better against the run, which allowed teams 219 yards per game last spring, and getting off the field on third down where teams converted at a 50-percent clip. Coach Nielson hinted during media day to more 4-3 looks this fall to aid in run defense when necessary.
The 3-4 base defense plays to the strength of the Coyote linebackers where all-MVFC players Jack Cochrane and Brock Mogensen roam. Cochrane, a preseason all-American, led the Valley in tackles during the regular season in 2019 while Mogensen ranked second in tackles per game during this past spring season. Jacob Matthew, an outside backer or edge rusher, has led the Coyotes in sacks and tackle-for-loss in each of the last two seasons.
The Coyote secondary got an instant boost last spring with the introduction of true freshman Myles Harden at cornerback. Harden had two interceptions in his collegiate debut – the Coyotes’ win at Illinois State – and went on to lead the nation in passes defended per game. He posted seven pass breakups in four games and was selected to the Valley’s All-Newcomer Team.
Strange, but true: the Coyotes’ second-leading active rusher is tight end Brett Samson who has totaled seven carries for 46 yards and a touchdown across two separate games against the UNI Panthers.
Iowa Hawkeye Connection: defensive line coach Corey Brown is the only new addition to the Coyotes’ coaching staff. Brown is the third former Iowa Hawekeye Nielson has added to his defensive staff in the last three years. Brown (DL), Abdul Hodge (LB) and Myles Taylor (DB) are all former Hawkeyes.
Milestone Watch: Kody Case is 11 yards shy of 1,000 career yards receiving; Jakari Starling is five tackles shy of 100; Brock Mogensen is six tackles shy of 100.
Coyote specialists include senior punter Brady Schutt, a preseason all-American in both 2019 and 2020-21 who has performed at an all-American level both seasons. Schutt’s punt unit led the nation in net punting during the spring and ranked seventh in 2019. His averages of 45.1 yards per punt in 2019 and 46.0 yards per punt in 2020-21 were both fourth-best nationally. His career punt average of 42.9 yards per boot is a program record.
There are three transfer student-athletes who are featured in the first depth chart released by the team. They include edge rusher DeJaun Cooper (Monmouth), cornerback Da’Raun McKinney (Iowa) and safety Dennis Shorter (Bethune-Cookman). Cooper started all 13 games for Monmouth in 2019. McKinney competed on special teams for the Hawkeyes in the fall of 2020, transfered to USD after the first semester and was unable to compete in the spring due to his competition at Iowa. Shorter’s season at Bethune-Cookman was canceled completely and he is looking to make his collegiate debut.
South Dakota has lost just two games under Nielson when holding teams to fewer than 27 points. Both of those losses came during the 2021 spring season.