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    USD FB: No. 23 South Dakota 43, Northern Colorado 28

    VERMILLION, S.D.—South Dakota quarterback Austin Simmons passed for a career-high 462 yards – the third-highest total in program history – and accounted for five touchdowns in leading the 23rd-ranked Coyotes to a 43-28 win against Northern Colorado Saturday inside the DakotaDome.

    It was the 16th consecutive home-opening victory for South Dakota (1-1), which improved to 35-5 in season openers inside the DakotaDome. It also brought the Missouri Valley Football Conference even against the Big Sky at 2-2 in its yearly challenge. The Coyotes have won five of their last six against the Big Sky with a matchup against nationally-ranked Weber State on deck next Saturday in Utah. 

    Simmons threw for 342 yards and four scores in the first half in pushing the Coyotes out to a 34-14 halftime lead. He completed 31 of 40 passes in all and was the game’s leading rusher with 80 yards. His 2-yard quarterback keeper with 5:19 remaining made it 40-28, and Jake Matthew forced a turnover on the ensuing kickoff that essentially secured the victory.

    On the other end of Simmons’ passing were some spectacular receptions. The first was a quick out to Trystn Ducker, who got blocks from Brett Samson and Levi Falck before sprinting untouched down the left sideline for a 76-yard score. The extra point was missed, but it was 20-14 USD two plays into the second quarter. Ducker caught four passes for 131 yards – all in the first half – for his first 100-yard game as a Coyote. 

    The next score was a brilliant over-the-shoulder grab on a pressured pass from Simmons that went for a 12-yard Coyote TD and a 27-14 lead. Reggie Crawford wrestled away a 4-yard jump ball from UNC cornerback Isaiah Swopes that extended South Dakota’s lead to 34-14 with three minutes to go before halftime. 

    South Dakota scored touchdowns on five of its seven first-half possessions and racked up 439 yards before halftime.

    Both teams missed short field goals during a scoreless third quarter, but the Bears cut into the lead with a 2-yard touchdown toss from Jacob Knipp to tight end Theron Verna with 14 minutes to go. UNC cut further when star receiver Alex Wesley beat the defense for a 25-yard touchdown grab with eight minutes remaining. The extra point was good and suddenly it was a six-point game. 

    Coyote running back Kai Henry converted a 3rd-and-2 on the ensuing drive, and two plays later, Simmons hooked up with Jackson on a 60-yard catch-and-run down the middle of the field that took the ball to the UNC 12. A pass interference penalty placed the ball on the 2, and Simmons ran a naked bootleg to the left pylon for a 40-28 lead.

    Jackson, held without a catch a week ago at Kansas State, hauled in seven passes for 146 yards in this one. He and Ducker gave USD two 100-yard receivers in a game for the first time since 2007.

    Matthew forced UNC return man Jullen Ison to fumble on the kickoff return and kicker Ethan James fell on the loose ball at the Bear 33. Mason Lorber cashed in a 33-yard field goal with a minute left for the final score of the game. 

    The Coyotes finished with 635 yards of offense while the Bears totaled 450. Knipp was 26 of 35 for UNC for 331 yards and three touchdowns. Wesley had 10 grabs for 184 yards. 

    Defensively, South Dakota got an interception from Phillip Powell and two sacks from defensive end Darin Greenfield. Nick Kramer and Luis Peguero also picked up sacks for the Coyotes. 

    The win was No. 199 for USD head coach Bob Nielson. He has 13 wins in two-plus seasons with the Coyotes.

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