66 Days until Duck football: Coyotes vow to “Beat Oregon”

USATSI_7421831_168380293_lowresThe Ducks are playing the wrong Dakota. They host South Dakota in 66 days, Saturday night at 7:30 in Autzen Stadium, but the Coyotes were 4-8 last season and won just one game the year before that.

Meanwhile North Dakota State has won three straight FCS Championships, 15-0 in 2013 including a season-opening upset victory over Kansas State, 24-21. They stampeded Colorado State in 2012, Minnesota in 2011, Kansas in 2010. These Bison shoot back. They’re 43-2 since 2011, the best record over that time span in either division.

Photo left: Coyotes in action against the Kansas Jayhawks last fall, a game they lost 31-14 (John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports images).

Fortunes at USD may be looking up however. Last year they hired alumus Joe Glenn to be head football coach, and he’s quickly transforming the culture. Glenn won three small college national championships of his own in previous stops at Northern Colorado and Montana with a streak of 14 straight winning seasons, making the playoffs 10 times before taking over at his alma mater.

In 2010 the Coyotes beat Minnesota, and in 2011 they bested Eastern Washington. They’re no Appalachian State, but the Ducks chief opponent in this season opener is themselves: if they truly want to compete for a conference and national championship, they have to demonstrate a week-to-week commitment to the values that built their success. They can’t be like, whatever about any opportunity to play football. Michigan State comes to town in week two, and the only way to be ready for the Spartans is to execute and play with discipline against South Dakota.

Glenn graduated his best player, linebacker Tyler Starr, the Missouri Valley Conference Defensive MVP in 2013, 9th in the voting for the Buck Buchanan Award, drafted in the seventh round by the Atlanta Falcons after a school record 23 career sacks. He led all linebackers in the cone drill at the NFL combine. Two other players, cb Jarrid Bryant and  center Cody O’Neill, were picked up as free agents. The Ducks have be attentive: there’s some NFL talent on the South Dakota team, and there’s no faster way to make a name for yourself than by clocking Marcus Mariota in the open field. The visitors will be pumped for their trip to Autzen. It’s been the rallying cry of their winter and spring workouts. There’s a “Beat Oregon” countdown clock in their locker room.

As an FCS school South Dakota is limited to 63 scholarship players, but the 2014 roster boasts five offensive linemen that are 300 pounds or more, and senior defensive tackle Adam Praska tips the scale at 6-4, 320. Junior defensive end Drew Iddings is 6-6, 285, seventh on the team in tackles last year with 51.

Glenn’s Coyotes are disciplined and good citizens. A full 35 earned Missouri Valley Football academic awards, achieving a G.P.A. of 3.0 or greater. In May they hosted a women’s clinic for the community along with their coaches, 80 women visiting the 10,000 seat Dakota Dome to run blocking and agility drills and learn about the game.

It wasn’t always that way before the veteran coach took over. In November of 2012 four former Coyote players and one current member of the roster were indicted by a federal grand jury for a tax fraud conspiracy. They stole identities and filed tax returns, receiving over $500,000 in refunds before being caught by the IRS.

In the Spring Game quarterback Kevin Earl went the distance, tossing 17-of-35 day for 335 yards and four touchdowns and three interceptions, as the USD offense topped the defense 48-21. The running game couldn’t get going though. Tailbacks Trevor Bouma, Jordan Roberts, and Khorey Kilgore managed just 38 yards on 28 attempts.

Things may be a little more difficult against Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and the Oregon secondary.

Dale Newton

About Dale Newton

The Ducks Stops Here is a site for opinions, commentary and analysis on Duck football. I've written it since 2010. Reader contributions are welcome and can be submitted at duckstopshere@yahoo.com