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South Dakota football primer: Coyotes look for FBS win in return trip to Kansas State

The Coyotes travel south for a meeting with a familiar FBS opponent in K-State.

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The South Dakota football team celebrates following a game-winning touchdown pass on the final play allowed USD to defeat South Dakota State, 23-20 on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021 at the DakotaDome in Vermillion. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)
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VERMILLION — After nearly starting the 2021 season with a win at Kansas, the University of South Dakota football team returns to the Sunflower state to open the 2022 campaign, as Kansas State awaits. Here’s what to know ahead of the contest:

When:
6 p.m. Saturday

Where:
Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Kansas.

Records (last season):
USD 7-5 overall, 5-3 Missouri Valley; K-State 8-5 overall, 4-5 Big 12.

Coaches:
USD: Bob Nielson, 29th season overall (seventh at USD), 215-114-1 overall (29-34 at USD), 20-24 MVFC; K-State: Chris Klieman, 10th season (fourth at K-State), 92-29 overall (20-16 at K-State), 13-14 Big 12.

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At USD, Nielson is 2-4 in season-opening games, while Klieman is 6-2 in season openers as a head coach since taking over at North Dakota State in 2014. Among active head coaches in the NCAA ranks, Bob Nielson is one of 11 who has eclipsed 200 career wins.

Last meeting:
The Coyotes meet up with the Wildcats in the season opener for the third time in eight seasons, with the most recent game in 2018 resulting in a 27-24 Wildcat comeback victory. All time, USD has made the trip to the Little Apple five times, with K-State winning all five.

Notes:

  • Saturday's game will be televised through ESPN+.
  • The Wildcats find themselves in the middle of a pack of 22 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) programs that are receiving votes in the AP Top 25 to start the season. Meanwhile, in the Stats Perform Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Top 25, USD received the most votes for a program outside the rankings 151, two behind No. 25 UC Davis.
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South Dakota quarterback Carson Camp prepares to throw a pass during a college football game Nov. 13, 2021 against South Dakota State at the DakotaDome in Vermillion. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

About the Coyotes:

  • With the exception of 2020 due to COVID-19, USD has faced an FBS program every year since 2010. During that span, the Coyotes have scored wins over Minnesota (2010) and Bowling Green (2017) and had a couple of other close calls, including a narrow 17-14 loss to Kansas last season.
  • Saturday's contest is the first of a grueling early schedule for USD, which is set to face the toughest FCS schedule in the nation. After going to K-State, the Coyotes the FCS' No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3-ranked programs loom in the first five weeks, with two of the three on the road.
  • In a marked improvement, the Coyotes allowed 344 yards and 20 points per game — both FCS-era program-bests — last year, defensive coordinator Travis Johansen's third in Vermillion, Most notably, USD improved its run defense, which had surrendered at least 200 yards per contest in three of the prior five seasons. In 2021, the Coyotes limited opponents to 121 yards per game, which ranked in the top 25 nationally and was the team's best mark since 2009.

About the Wildcats:

  • Since the start of 2010, K-State owns a 10-1 record against FCS opposition, which includes two wins against USD and three against another MVFC program, Missouri State. The lone loss was to yet another MVFC team, as North Dakota State defeated the Wildcats, 24-21, in 2013.
  • One thing the Wildcats do not do is beat themselves very often. Since 2012, K-State has given the ball away an average of just 1.22 times per game, which is the third-lowest among Power 5 teams behind only LSU and Alabama.
  • Another staple of K-State football that dates back even further is the ability to score without the offense on the field, particularly on special teams. Since 1999, the Wildcats have scored 125 non-offensive touchdowns, the most in the country and seven more than second place.

Key players:
South Dakota
On offense, the Coyotes look to third-year sophomore quarterback Carson Camp to direct the show. In 16 career starts, Camp has passed for 3,200 yards with 20 touchdowns while maintaining a 65% completion percentage. Last, Camp's passer rating (149.0) ranked 14th nationally.

However, Camp will be working with a significantly different receiving corps, as 110 of 199 completions made by USD quarterbacks last season went to players not on the roster the Coyotes will take to Manhattan. Of those who do return, wide receiver Carter Bell put up the best numbers with 673 yards and five touchdowns on 41 receptions last season.

USD does bring back another top playmaker in the backfield alongside Camp in running back Travis Theis (677 rushing yards, team-high eight touchdowns), a Pratt, Kansas, native making a second return trip to his home state in as many seasons. In the Coyotes' FBS game against Kansas last season, he toted the ball 18 times for 96 yards.

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Linebacker Brock Mogensen, a HERO Sports preseason third-team All-American, returns to his spot in the middle of a Coyote defense that has eight projected starters with starting experience.

Kansas State
A consensus All-American a season ago, running back Deuce Vaughn headlines the K-State offense. Vaughn is coming off a campaign where he was one of only three players in the country with 1,000 yards rushing and 400 yards receiving. He also ranked fourth nationally with 22 touchdowns and is second among active players in career all-purpose yards per game (134.5), and fifth in total touchdowns (31) and yards per carry (5.8).

Beside Vaughn in the backfield, the Wildcats look to Nebraska graduate transfer quarterback Adrian Martinez, who started 38 games and set 17 school records as a Husker, including career total offense (10,792 yards) and completions (670). Martinez is one of only two active quarterbacks in the nation with 8,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing in a career.

On the other side of the ball, K-State returns seven starters on defense from 2021, perhaps most notably defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah and linebacker Daniel Green. Last season, Anudike-Uzomah was a first-team all-Big 12 selection and was honored as the-Big 12 defensive lineman of the year, and he starts 2022 on the watch lists for national awards such as the Nagurski Trophy, Bednarik Award and Lombardi Award. Green, a fellow alll-Big 12 honoree, led the Wildcats in tackles (89) and tackles for loss (16), and his 5.3 solo tackles per game ranked 18th nationally.

Keys for USD
Contain Deuce
This is much easier said than done, but if the Coyotes want to stand a chance, slowing down Deuce Vaughn is crucial. With his ability as a pass catcher and runner out of the backfield, keeping tabs on him all night should be USD's focus.
Don't lose the game on special teams
K-State boasts one of the best special teams units in the entire country. The game can get away from the Coyotes very quickly on a kickoff return or a punt return. Keeping special teams in check is crucial if USD wants to pull off the upset.
Limit Felix Anudike-Uzomah's impact
With preseason All-Big 12 defensive end lining up against the USD offensive line, Felix Anudike-Uzomah needs to be a target of the Coyotes' gameplan. Whether it takes consistent double teams, the plan should be not to let him disrupt plays in the backfield no matter what it takes.

Next week:
USD is on the road again for a road date at FCS No. 3 Montana on Sept. 10. K-State continues a three-game homestand when it hosts former Big 12 foe Missouri, also on Sept. 10.

Dierks covers prep and collegiate athletics across the Mitchell Republic's coverage region area, focusing on Mitchell High School football and boys basketball and area high school football, volleyball and basketball, as well as Dakota Wesleyan women's basketball. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Gridiron Spotlight, producing video and providing live play-by-play for the traveling weekly prep football broadcast during its first season in the fall of 2021. Dierks is a Mitchell native who graduated from South Dakota State University with his bachelor's degree in journalism in May 2020. He joined the Mitchell Republic sports staff in August 2021. He can be reached at ldierks@mitchellrepublic.com and found on Twitter at @LDierksy.
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