South Dakota Wins Their First-Ever FCS Playoff Game
South Dakota forced four turnovers, including a fumble at the goal line in the final 20 seconds of the game, to win their first ever FCS Playoff game, 38-31, over Nicholls, in Thibodaux, Louisiana.
Clinging to a late seven-point lead, the Coyotes turned back a potential game-tying touchdown run by the Colonels' Kyran Irvin, who fumbled the ball into the end zone, where USD recovered, sealing the first round win.
South Dakota quarterback Chris Streveler threw for 378 yards and four touchdowns in the win. Two of the scores went to wide receiver Brandt Van Roekel.
The Coyotes (8-4) got on the board first, courtesy of their defense.
On Nicholls' second possession, USD got pressure on sophomore quarterback Chase Fourcade, who threw an ill advised pass that was picked by Mike Johnson at the Colonels' 35.
The Coyotes struck for 31-yards on first down with Streveler connecting with Brett Samson, setting up a Mike Fredrick touchdown run two plays later to make it 7-0.
A few minutes later, the USD defense was playing take away again.
With Nicholls driving for a potential game-tying score, Coyote defensive back Isaac Armstead stepped in front of a Fourcade pass in the end zone, giving the ball back to the South Dakota offense.
Streveler and company took advantage 80 yards later, with the help of a pair of Nicholls pass interference penalties, as Dakarai Allen caught a touchdown pass on the drive's tenth play to push the USD lead to 14-0.
But then, just before halftime, it was the Nicholls defense's turn to create some momentum, when Austin Dickerson picked off Streveler and he didn't stop until he was in the end zone, 43-yards later, cutting the South Dakota lead to 14-7.
Another Nicholls penalty just before halftime led to three more USD points, as a facemask on the final play of the half allowed Ryan Weese to come on and kick a 39-yard field goal, giving the Coyotes a 17-7 lead at intermission.
In the third, the South Dakota defense picked up right where it left off in the first half, when Alex Coker picked off Fourcade at the USD 29 on the Colonels' first possession.
This time, the Coyotes couldn't convert the turnover into points, and Nicholls made them pay the next time they got the ball.
The Colonels established the run for the first time all day, picking up 49 yards on the ground on a nine-play, 76-yard drive, capped by a Tahj Smith 27-yard touchdown run to cut the USD lead to 17-14.
But then it was the Coyotes turn to re-take the momentum as Streveler went 5-of-5 through the air, the final 47-yards on an acrobatic catch from Van Roekel, to make it a ten-point lead again at 24-14.
That cushion was short lived as Nicholls marched the ball back down the field, aided by a pair of USD penalties, making it 24-21 on a Irvin 2-yard touchdown run.
The Coyote offense was undaunted, needing one play to make it a ten-point game again, when Streveler connected with Trystn Ducker for a 75-yard strike. 31-21 USD.
Nicholls had an answer. Fourcade sliced through the Coyote defense for a 54-yard run on the first play of what became a six play, 76-yard touchdown drive, and 2:20 later it was a three-point game again at 31-28.
USD penalties then began to pile up. The Coyotes offense had a third down conversion called back by an illegal man downfield and then were forced to punt when Streveler was sacked on the next play.
The South Dakota special teams compounded things on the ensuing punt a catch interference penalty, giving Nicholls the ball on the USD 44.
The Colonels converted that into a Lorran Fonseca 43-yard game tying field goal. 31-31 with 8:25 left in the game.
But Streveler was up to the challenge, running for 28-yards to start the next drive, then surviving a couple of penalties from his offense, before getting bailed out by a Nicholls pass interference penalty on third down. That extended the drive, which didn't end until Streveler found Van Roekel in the back of the end zone for a 10-yard scoring strike. 38-31 USD.
With less than five minutes to play, Nicholls had one last chance to send the game to overtime. The Colonels drove the ball to the Coyote four-yard line, where on fourth-and-three, Fourcade got a very favorable spot from the officials, getting a first down by half a length of the football.
That gave Nicholls the potential of four chances from the one to tie the game, but Irvin's fumble on first down effectively ended things.
South Dakota advances to play at sixth-seed Sam Houston State, next Saturday (December 2), at 2:00 PM, in Huntsville, Texas.
On the day, the Missouri Valley Conference went 2-1.
South Dakota and Northern Iowa both posted first round wins. The Panthers routed Monmouth to setup a second round game at South Dakota State, next Saturday (December 2).
Western Illinois was the lone MVFC team to lose in the opening round. The Leathernecks fell 21-19 at Weber State.