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South Dakota Upsets Defending FCS Champ and Top-Ranked Eastern Washington, while Southern Utah Gets Win Over No. 12 Sacramento State


USD quarterback Dante Warren

USD quarterback Dante Warren

Sept. 10, 2011

The Great West Conference picked up two wins over ranked teams on Saturday with South Dakota's 30-17 win over defending FCS champion and top-ranked Eastern Washington and Southern Utah's 35-14 victory over No. 12 Sacramento State.

The other three GWC teams suffered road losses on Saturday as Cal Poly fell at No. 13 Montana, 37-23, No. 6 Montana State defeated UC Davis, 38-14, and North Dakota lost at FBS team Idaho, 44-14.

South Dakota 30, No. 1 Eastern Washington 17

VERMILLION, S.D. -- South Dakota recorded one of the biggest wins in program history with a 30-17 win over No.1-ranked and defending FCS national champion Eastern Washington Saturday at the DakotaDome. It was the Coyotes' first-ever win over a No. 1-ranked team since moving to Division I FCS status.

The Coyotes (1-1) used all phases of the game to upend the higher-powered Eagles.

Their offense was efficient - rushing for 198 yards and finishing with 324 total yards. The defense held Eastern Washington (0-2) to only 11 rushing yards and forced two key turnovers, while the special teams converted three key field goals to help the Coyotes pull the upset.

"This is a big win for us. This is the level we're supposed to be at," South Dakota head coach Ed Meierkort said. "We are an FCS team now to be reckoned with. We can play with anybody and we provided it today."

Senior running back Chris Ganious had 85 yards rushing on 15 carries. Senior quarterback Dante Warren was 8-of-15 passing for 126 yards and a touchdown; he also rushed for 59 yards. Junior receiver Will Powell (Sioux Falls, S.D.) had five catches for 49 yards.

Ganious moved into third all-time on the school's career rushing list as he has 2,564 career yards surpassing Jared Schwenn (1994-97) with 2,513 yards.

Senior linebacker Adam Broders had a game-high, and career-tying, 15 tackles for the Coyotes, while senior linebacker Shea Williams had 10 stops. Reigning Great West Conference Defensive Player of the Week and CFPA National Defensive Lineman of the Week, sophomore Tyler Starr (Little Rock, Iowa) had two sacks to go along with five tackles.

The Coyote defense controlled the first quarter, holding Eastern Washington to just 52 yards on 18 plays - and just three first downs.

"We came out with a lot of energy," South Dakota safety Jim Thompson said. "We just came together today."

The Coyotes' first touchdown came as a result of a three-play, 45-yard drive - which included a 14-yard run by senior Jeremy Blount, and a big 26-yard run by Ganious. Warren capped off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown on a quarterback draw for a 7-0 lead.

South Dakota added to the lead in the second quarter thanks to another big play. Warren found a streaking Blount down the middle for a 48-yard touchdown, giving the Coyotes a 14-0 lead with 10:55 left in the half.

"My job was to get between both the linebacker and the safety and split them and use my speed," Blount said. "It worked out good."

Then, the Coyote defense came up with the first key interception.

Eastern Washington faced a fourth-and-three at the Coyote 37-yard line; quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell's pass was intercepted by senior safety Jim Thompson and returned 67 yards for a electrifying touchdown, pushing the Coyote lead to 21-0 with 7:49 left in the half.

"We were in man-to-man coverage, and he ran a quick little out and turned my head quickly and it worked out perfect," Thompson said.

"Jimmy Thompson's interception for a touchdown was a huge play," Meierkort said.

The Coyotes kept the high-powered Eagles off of the scoreboard until the final seconds of the first half when Eastern Washington scored to cut the lead to 21-7 as Mitchell engineered the longest drive of the day - a 14 play, 72-yard drive lasting 3:57. Mitchell fired a 2-yard strike to Nicholas Edwards. Edwards led all receivers with 138 yards on 13 catches.

Although Eastern Washington held a slight 178-171 edge in total yards at halftime, the Coyotes had a huge 84-8 edge in rushing yards. Ganious had 49 yards on just seven carries. Warren was 5-of-9 passing for 87 yards and a score, while Blount had two catches for 60 yards.

In the second half, Eastern Washington kicked a field goal to cut the Coyote lead to 21-10, but the Coyotes responded with a 33-yard field goal by sophomore Kevin Robb with 1:24 left in the third quarter to push the lead back to 24-10.

Eastern Washington came back with a quick touchdown on four plays using just 1:16 off the clock to cut the lead to 24-17 as the third quarter closed. Wide receiver Greg Herd caught a 27-yard pass from Mitchell for the score.

Each time the Eagles crept closer, the Coyotes answered.

The Coyotes went on an eight-play, 44-yard drive - keyed by a 23-yard pass from Warren to Powell plus a 12-yard run by Powell - that was capped off by a 33-yard field goal by Robb with 11:40 left to give the Coyotes a 27-17 lead.

The Eagles began driving on the ensuing possession, but the Coyote defense again answered the call. Senior Marquis Butler intercepted Mitchell deep in Coyote territory, and his big 63-yard return gave South Dakota the ball in EWU territory with 9:54 left in the contest.

South Dakota turned Butler's interception return into a 30-yard field goal by Robb with 4:23 left to make the score 30-17. The Coyotes forced a turnover on downs on Eastern Washington's final offensive possession to ice the win.

"It was a tremendous effort on both sides of the ball," Meierkort said. "Our defense took a lot of snaps, and continued to play hard. Eastern Washington is a fantastic football team. Today was our day."

The Coyotes return to action Saturday, Sept. 17 at home against Northwestern Oklahoma State. The game, which is Hall of Fame Day at South Dakota, begins at 4 p.m. at the DakotaDome. 

Southern Utah 35, No. 12 Sacramento State 14

CEDAR CITY, Utah -- Brad Sorensen completed 30-of-37 passes for 271 yards and Deckar Alexander ran for 78 yards and two touchdowns as Southern Utah overcame an early deficit then rolled to a 35-14 win over No. 12 Sacramento State in its home-opener Saturday afternoon.

After a blocked punt gave the Hornets the ball at the SUU 44 yard line midway through the first quarter, CSUS capitalized on the short field to take the lead on a 2-yard Bryan Hilliard.

The Thunderbirds pulled within 7-3 when Colton Cook kicked a 27-yard field goal at the 14:11 mark of the second period, then took the lead on a 12-yard Alexander run with 10:07 to go in the quarter.

The Hornets re-claimed the lead on a 1-yard Hilliard run with 3:39 to play in the half, but the advantage was short-lived as Austin Minefee took the ensuing kickoff 92 yards to put the Thunderbirds up 17-14. Southern Utah added a 36-yard Cook field goal at the end of the half to hold a 20-14 advantage at the break.

The second half was all Southern Utah, as the Thunderbird defense held the Hornets to just 125 yards while piling up 221 of its own. SUU scored twice in the second, on a 1-yard Minefee run with 11:49 to go in the third and sealing the outcome with a 3-yard Alexander run with 1:40 to go in the game.

SUU's defense gave up 3-of-3 fourth-down conversions in the first half but in the second half the Hornets were 0-2 on fourth down, both times in the fourth quarter, including once at the SUU 2-yard line following an 11-play, 67-yard drive.

Blake Fenn led Southern Utah's defense with 12 tackles, eight solo, while Chad Hansen had 10 tackles, including a tackle-for-loss. Tyler Osborne had five tackles, but three of them went for losses, including 1.5 sacks, and he also had two quarterback hurries and recovered a fumble.

Southern Utah evened its record at 1-1 while CSUS, which upset Oregon State last week, dipped to 1-1. 

No. 13 Montana 37, Cal Poly 23

SAN DIEGO, Calif.-- Sophomore quarterback Jordan Johnson passed for 240 yards, two touchdowns and a two-point conversion as No. 13 Montana rallied from a 20-14 third-quarter deficit to beat Cal Poly 37-23 Saturday afternoon before 25,855 at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

Mustang sophomore placekicker James Langford kicked three field goals, including a 50-yarder that gave Cal Poly a 23-21 lead with 4:21 left in the third quarter. It was Cal Poly's second-longest field goal since moving to Division I in 1994. Alan Beilke kicked a 54-yarder against Western Illinois in 1996.

Montana, however, scored a pair of touchdowns on a four-yard pass from Johnson to Kavario Middleton and a one-yard dive by Dan Moore that capped a game-clinching 90-yard drive.

Montana, which has won 14 of 16 meetings against Cal Poly, improves to 1-1 on the year while the Mustangs fell to 0-2.

Cal Poly led 17-14 at halftime on a four-yard run by senior fullback Jake Romanelli, a 38-yard field goal by Langford and a one-yard dive by junior quarterback Andre Broadous.

A 35-yard field goal by Langford less than five minutes into the third period gave Cal Poly a 20-14 lead, but Montana outscored the Mustangs 23-3 the rest of the way.

Romanelli finished two yards shy of his second career 100-yard game rushing, netting 98 yards on 20 carries. Broadous added 90 yards on 22 trips, Mark Rodgers gained 52 yards on 10 carries and Donte Williams added 46 yards on seven trips.

Broadous completed nine of 13 passes for 67 yards and his favorite targets were Rodgers with three catches and true freshman Willie Tucker with two receptions.

Johnson completed 25 of 39 passes and he connected with Sambrano on five catches and Greg Hardy with four. Sambrano also returned the game-opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. Johnson was the Grizzlies' top rusher with 54 yards on 10 carries.

For the second straight game, linebacker Johnny Millard was Cal Poly's top tackler, recording 10 stops. Kennith Jackson and Angel Morales each added nine tackles.

The Mustang defense did not record a sack, interception or fumble recovery for the second week in a row.

Cal Poly amassed 211 yards in total offense and 17 points in the first half but was held to 121 yards and a pair of field goals after the break. Montana, on the other hand, was held to 83 total yards in the first half but broke through for 273 second-half yards.

Johnson completed just six of 12 passes for 35 yards in the first half, but exploded for 205 yards, connecting on 19 of 27 throw, after intermission.

Cal Poly plays its first home game of the 2011 season next Saturday, hosting South Dakota State (1-1) at 4:05 p.m. in Alex G. Spanos Stadium. The Jackrabbits fell 56-3 at Illinois on Saturday.

No. 6 Montana State 38, UC Davis 14

BOZEMAN, Mont. -- Denarius McGhee threw for two passing touchdowns and added a rushing score, while Cody Kirk posted 155 rushing yards and two touchdowns to help No. 6 Montana State break away in the first half and hold on for a 38-14 win over UC Davis on Saturday afternoon at Bobcat Stadium.

UC Davis scored on the first possession of the game, using a 9-play, 77-yard drive that resulted in a 24-yard touchdown reception by Tom Hemmingsen. Following the Aggie score, Montana State rattled off 28 unanswered points to go up 28-7 at halftime.

UC Davis cut the deficit to 14 in the second half and held the Bobcats scoreless for over 24 minutes before Montana State went up by three scores and stayed on top for the win.

"We didn't get any rhythm going in our offense," said head coach Bob Biggs. "We started to get the run going but we dropped a couple balls and we weren't very accurate today. Our defense struggled against the run in the first half. A couple long passes they got were on broken plays but really they were able to run the ball. We tightened things up in the second half but unfortunately we couldn't get anything together offensively."

Following the opening drive UC Davis' next score was a 22-yard reception by Corey Galindo that made the score 28-14 at the 2:19 mark in the third quarter. A Jordan Glass fumble recovery set up the drive, as the Aggies went 32 yards on four plays to cut into the deficit.

UC Davis finished with 296 total yards of offense for the game, including 215 yards through the air. Randy Wright completed 15-of-33 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns. Galindo had 76 yards on four catches and Hemmingsen totaled 45 yards for the game. Colton Silveria was UC Davis' leading rusher with 27 yards on seven carries.

Defensively, the Aggies played solid in the second half, forcing two turnovers and preventing a Bobcat score in the third quarter to keep UC Davis in the game. Glass was the leading tackler for the game with nine tackles and seven solo stops to go along with the fumble recovery. Jonathan Perkins also had an interception and Reece Ludwig tallied eight tackles for the game.

After the early UC Davis lead, Montana State responded by going the length of the field later in the first quarter. Kirk used a five-yard touchdown run to cap off an 11-pay, 90-yard drive that evened the score at seven apiece.

The Bobcats took their first lead of the game midway throughout the second quarter, using an 8-play 75-yard drive to take a 14-7 advantage. Elvis Akpla hauled in a 21-yard pass from McGhee to put the points on the board.

Two more quick scores for Montana State, including a Kruiz Siewing touchdown reception and a McGhee rush touchdown, made the score 28-7 at the intermission.

The Aggies looked to gain some momentum in the second half after Perkins picked off a McGhee pass in the end zone resulting in a touchback.

After the offense was forced to punt, another defensive play saw Brock Galvin forced a McGhee fumble, while Glass recovered the ball at the Bobcat 32 yard line. A 38-minute scoring drought for UC Davis was snapped when Galindo hauled in a 22-yard pass from Wright at the 2:19 mark in the third quarter, making the score 28-14.

Montana State gained field position before adding another touchdown for a 35-14 lead with 5:32 on the clock. A 7-play, 52-yard drive was capped off by a one-yard rush for another Kirk score. Jason Cunningham also added a 47-yard field goal before the clock winded down en route to the final 38-14 score.

"We weren't doing a good job inside stopping the run," continued coach Biggs. "They were finding seams and then they would run the ball back outside. We just weren't making plays. We made some adjustments and got some turnovers in the second half but it was too little too late."

McGhee completed 15-of-26 passes and finished with 257 passing yards and had 39 yards on the ground. Akpla was Montana State's leading receiver after seven catches for 90 yards and a touchdown.

Sophomore Colton Schmidt played well for the second consecutive game, registering five punts for a 45.8-yard average and a long of 54 yards.

UC Davis will play its home opener next week, facing San Diego on Saturday, Sept. 17, with a 6 p.m. kickoff at Aggie Stadium.

Idaho 44, North Dakota 14

MOSCOW, Idaho -- For the first time in program history, UND held a lead on a FBS opponent at halftime, but Idaho quarterback Brian Reader made sure the Fighting Sioux lead would not last through the fourth quarter as the Vandals rallied for a 44-14 victory.

The senior signal caller overcame a shaky start to lead the Vandals (1-1) to 34 unanswered points in the come-from-behind win on Saturday at the Kibbie Dome. Reader threw three of his four touchdown passes after the break to propel the home team to its first win of the season.

The Fighting Sioux (1-1) scored touchdowns on a pair of explosive plays in the first half as safety Erik Mersereau took a punt back 79 yards and wideout Greg Hardin hauled in a 54-yard pass from Joey Bradley. Those two scores staked the Fighting Sioux to an eventual 14-10 lead at halftime.

"We made a big play offensively and one on special teams in the first half and in the second half, we didn't make any plays," UND head coach Chris Mussman said. "We gave up a big plays on defense and could not generate anything offensively after halftime."

Unfortunately for UND, the Vandals pitched a shutout after halftime. Reader's regrouping actually started before the break, as he completed all 11 of his passes on the Vandals' final drive of the opening half, which resulted in their first touchdown - an eight-yard strike to Armauni Johnson.

Reader and Idaho would score touchdowns on their opening three possessions of the second half to regain the lead from the upset-minded Sioux and take the momentum back from the Vandals. Reader finished with a 299-yard passing day after a 3-for-10 start. He completed 15 straight at one point, finishing 27-for-39 through the air.

The Vandals' defense held the Sioux to just 29 rushing yards and 197 yards of total offense for the game. UND only gained 82 yards after halftime and mustered just five first downs after netting six in the first half.

Junior tight end Seth Nichols led the Sioux with four catches. The converted quarterback was making his first appearance of his career at that position. Senior Mitch Goertz led the Sioux with 10 tackles, including half a sack. Senior linebacker Johnnie Daniels had seven tackles and a sack in his first career start.

For the second straight game, the Sioux special teams came up with a field goal block in the first quarter. Junior Devin Benjamin got enough of a push up the middle to get one of his paws on a 47-yard attempt by Trey Farquhar.

The Vandals' placekicker would convert the first points of the season on the UND defense on Idaho's next possession early in the second quarter, drilling a 50-yarder to put the home team ahead 3-0.

With the Sioux offense sputtering through the first quarter, Mersereau scored the first touchdown of the game to put the Sioux ahead 7-3 and give the visitors a nice jolt.

After the UND defense forced Idaho into its fourth three-and-out of the opening half, the Sioux offense came through on the next possession. Bradley went to play action, faking a toss sweep, then throwing a perfect strike to a wide open Hardin for the sophomore's 11th career score. It was the first touchdown pass of Bradley's career and put the Sioux ahead 14-3.

"We have to learn to replicate what we do in the first half and bring that back onto the field in the second half," Mussman added. "It just gets to a point where our kids have to be mature enough to handle coming in on those momentum swings, and I don't know if we handled those as well as we should have, or could have."

Idaho did not convert a third down until its first touchdown drive late in the first half as Reader did not throw an incompletion on the 15-play, 80-yard drive. The Vandals had been 0-for-6 until converting four on the scoring drive, including Reader's touchdown toss to Armauni Johnson from eight yards out.

Idaho finished 7-for-17 on third down conversions, while the Sioux were just 3-for-13. The Vandals also converted a pair of fourth-and-shorts in the second half to keep eventual touchdown drives alive.