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South Dakota is First GWC Team to Hit the Polls in 2011

South Dakota Coach Ed Meierkort

South Dakota Coach Ed Meierkort

Sept. 14, 2011

NAPERVILLE, Ill. - The Great West held its own against the top four teams in the Big Sky, going 2-2 against teams ranked in the top 18 in the FCS ranks. Perhaps the most surprising victory came in Vermillion, S.D., where the host Coyotes dusted off No. 1 Eastern Washington, the defending FCS national champion. The victory earned the Coyotes the GWC's first national ranking of the season as USD went from getting just six total votes in the Coaches Poll the week before to being ranked No. 23.

"It's exciting to be back in the top 25," South Dakota head coach Ed Meierkort said. "Now it is our staff and teams' responsibility to stay there."

The Coyotes were ranked in the Top 25 for the first time in their transition from the NCAA Division II ranks after beating Minnesota a year ago in Week 2. A win the following week moved USD up to No. 20, but a 38-16 loss to No.18 North Dakota State knocked the Coyotes out of the rankings until this week.

"This win may have been more gratifying because this is the level we are playing at, the FCS level," Meierkort said. "The Minnesota win was great for our fans, the school, the city of Vermillion and the checks coming in, but this win was against the best team at our level and it shows we can play with the best."

South Dakota faces the same foe this week that the Coyotes did a year ago after making their ranking debut - Northwestern Oklahoma State. USD took care of business last year 48-14 and look to do the same this week against the 0-2 Rangers from the NAIA ranks.

Kicker Kevin Robb was named GWC Special Teams Player of the Week for his three FGs in the upset win, but not before making an unexpected trip. "We took Kevin to the woodshed at halftime and gave him a good talking to," Meierkort said. "We were not getting what we need out of our kickoffs, and he put us in some bad spots. I admired the way he accepted the criticism and came back and did a great job in the second half."

Southern Utah held its own last week with a 35-14 win over a Sacramento State team that upset Oregon State the week before. Cal Poly had a chance to give the Great West three Big Sky defeats, leading at Montana late in the third quarter, but the Mustangs could not finish off the No. 13 Grizzlies. UC Davis dropped a 38-14 decision to No. 6 Montana State, which could very well be the best team in the Big Sky this season.

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