FCS Playoff Preview: South Dakota at Sam Houston State
When the University of South Dakota football team was losing four of their final five games of the 2017 regular season, there was talk in some circles that the Coyotes weren't worthy of a spot in the FCS Playoffs.
No one is saying that now after USD went on the road and converted opportunities and overcame adversity to play on in their first-ever Division I post season.
Round two features a second straight road game against an opponent from the Southland Conference, but the degree of difficulty for the Coyotes has been ramped up considerably.
South Dakota (8-4), one of four remaining Missouri Valley Conference teams in the field of 24, plays at sixth-seeded Sam Houston State (10-1), a team that hasn't lost a game since late September.
The Bearkats and Coyotes will throw the top two offenses in all of FCS at each other in this one. SHSU has scored 40 or more points in eight of their ten wins. USD has scored 35 or more in seven of their eight victories. These two are the only schools in FCS to average better than 500 yards per game.
Both offenses go as their senior quarterbacks go.
Sam Houston's Jeremiah Briscoe has thrown for the second-most yards in the nation (3,893) this season, completing 57 percent of his passes for 38 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
South Dakota's Chris Streveler's 3,614 yards passing are sixth-best in FCS. He has thrown 27 touchdowns against just six picks.
That's where the similarities between the two QBs end.
Briscoe is a traditional pocket passer with limited mobility. Streveler is a dual threat and his 669 rushing yards are second best for the Coyotes in 2017.
The Bearkats passing attack goes through two main players - wide receivers Davion Davis and Nathan Stewart. Davis is the Southland Conference Player of the Year, with 14 touchdown catches and nearly 1,000 receiving yards (990). Stewart is averaging nearly 120 yards a game and has caught 11 touchdowns.
The Coyote passing game is more evenly distributed with eight players making 20 or more catches. Ten different USD players have scored touchdowns through the air in 2017.
Defensively, both teams like to get to the quarterback.
Sam Houston has recorded 30 sacks in 11 games. South Dakota has 38 in 12 games.
Chris Stewart leads the Bearkats with 11 sacks. Darin Greenfield has eight to lead the Coyotes.
Both teams are great starters. SMSU has outscored opponents by more than 100 points in the first quarter, USD has a 78-point advantage in the first 15 minutes.
Kickoff in Huntsville, Texas is 2:00 PM, Saturday.
In round one of the playoffs, the Coyotes converted a pair of early turnovers into touchdowns and then survived a costly pick-six of their own, and a slew of penalties (12 for 102 yards), to escape with a 38-31 win at Nicholls.
Streveler, the MVFC Offensive Player of the Year, threw for 378 yards and four scores. But the USD defense came up with the biggest play of the game when they forced a fumble on the goal line with 40 seconds left, preserving the first DI playoff win in school history.
I talked with head coach Bob Nielson about the Nicholls win and the match-up with Sam Houston State: