It’s time for your weekly scouting report brought to you by BWahlberg on the eGriz forums!
South Dakota Coyotes (4-7 in 2018)
It’s always tricky to scout out schools in the first game, what I’m going to provide here is some info surrounding the team headed into the season, plus some notable games from last year. Additionally the general stats comparisons for both teams will be from last year’s season.
USD’s season saw them showing some early potential, they would sneak in and out of the top 25 after opening 3-2 but then a 4 game skid pretty much sunk them. Their defense was pretty damn bad and it got to the point where they’ve replaced their DC with a new coach this season, their new DC was a former NAIA DC. USD was 3-2 at home last year but just 1-5 on the road.
USD returns 7 starters on offense and 8 on defense. Two of their key losses are on the O-line but it looks like most of their skill guys return… much like Montana’s offense.
Here’s some notable games from last year:
24-27 loss @ Kansas State: USD was up 24-12 at the half, but K-State was able to come back and after scoring 15 points in the 4th quarter secure the win. K-State really killed themselves with 4 turnovers where USD had none. After this close loss USD moved to 24th in the polls.
43-28 win vs Northern Colorado: It was 14-14 as the first quarter ended, however 20 unanswered USD points in the 2nd quarter put UNC in a hole. There weren’t any points scored in the 3rd but UNC made it a bit of a game, scoring 2 TDs to make it 34-28 in the 4th, however USD scored the last 9 points to put it away, helped by a costly lost fumble by UNC. USD could do what they wanted on offense, 635 total yards of offense including 462 in the air.
10-27 loss @ Weber State: Following their win against UNC, South Dakota traveled to Weber and got a dose of what a real defense can do. They were held to just 238 total yards in the game (Weber’s lethargic offense had just 252 yards). Weber went +3 in turnovers on the game and had the ball for about 6:00 more of clock time.
17-12 win vs Western Illinois: USD’s last 6 games they went 1-5, this was their 1 win – the WIU team that beat the Griz. USD chipped away in a game that featured a lot of punts and a few missed fieldgoals. For some reason WIU didn’t run the ball too much (21 yards on 22 attempts). USD lead most of the way, in the 4th quarter WIU scored on a blocked punt to make it 17-12, but USD was able to take the following possession and run out nearly 5 minutes of clock – giving the ball back to WIU with just 8 seconds left in the game, and it secured the win.
Passing yards per game USD (285.8 for USD vs 271.7 for UM)
Rushing yards per game Montana (125.4 for USD vs 162.4 for UM)
Total offense Montana (411.2 for USD vs 435.9 for UM)
Passing yards allowed per game USD (219.2 for USD vs 238.1 for UM)
Rushing yards allowed per game Montana (211.1 for USD vs 179.2 for UM)
Total defense Montana (430.3 for USD vs 417.3 for UM)
Looks like a 3-3 tie in what statistically appears to be a general wash in most major statistics here.
Offense points scored Montana (26.7 for USD vs 33.9 for UM)
Defense points allowed Montana (34.2 for USD vs 28.5 for UM)
Turnover margin Push – both teams finished -3
Fieldgoal % Montana (70% for USD vs 76% for UM)
Punt Returns Montana (5.1 yards for USD vs 9.2 yards for UM)
Kick Returns Montana (19.7 yards for USD vs 24.7 yards for UM)
T.O.P. Montana (27:18 for USD vs 28:16 for UM)
Red Zone defense (touchdowns) USD (63% USD / 70% UM)
Red Zone offense (touchdowns) Montana (59% USD / 60% UM)
3rd down offense Push – both at 40%
3rd down defense USD – (36% allowed for USD vs 39% allowed for UM)
Montana picks up 7, USD adds 3 and there’s 2 push.
Total comes to Montana 10 – USD 6 – Push 2.
Players to Watch:
#3 Austin Simmons, QB – This guy lead the Missouri Valley in passing per game (284 yards/game) and lead the conference in total yards with 314 yards per game total. In 11 games he still had more rushing and passing yards combined than Easton Stick did in 15. Simmons is a dual-threat, obviously. He gained 590 yards rushing, but was attributed to 258 lost on account mostly of sacks. He was the 2nd best rusher on the team in terms of yards, attempts, and TDs scored with 5. As for passing he completed about 61% of his throws, 18 TDs to 8 INTs. This is a pass-heavy team, the dude averaged just about 43 attempts per game (compare to Sneed who had about 10 less per game on average. When you compare Simmons’ stats to Sneed, he had more yards passing overall while Dalton had more rushing. The two finished very close to each other in total yards and average yards/game. Simmons interestingly enough did not land on the 1st team all-conference to start the season, rather as an honorable mention.
#82 Alan Dakari, WR – Making the 1st team all-preseason MVFC team Dakari had about 700 yards and 5 TDs in 10 games last year. He’s a 6-1, 180 pound WR. He’s averaging almost 15 yards per catch, a home-run hitter for sure in a potent passing attack.
#88 Levi Falk, WR – A taller, 6-2, 205 WR. Levi was 2nd on the team in catches, and 3rd in yards with almost 500. He had 2 TDs. The guy who was 3rd in catches and 2nd in yards graduated this off-season I believe.
#2 Kai Henry, RB – Henry lead the team in total rushing yards with 540 yards and 7 rushing TDs. He’s 5-9 and 200 pounds. He did also account for nearly 90 receiving yards and 1 receiving TD. It looks like he returned a few kickoffs as well and actually had the best return average of the group, at a little over 28 yards per return, but he was 3rd on the list in total returns (7).
#44 Darrin Greenfield, DE – This 6-3, 235 defensive end will have to be accounted for through the game. He had 14.5 TFLs, 6 sacks, 11 QB hits, and 2 forced fumbles to go with 55 tackles last season. He made the 1st team all conference picks this summer.
#39 Jack Cochrane, LB – Jack finished 2nd on the team in total tackles (the guy with the most is gone now). He had 76 tackles, 4 TFLs, and 1 forced fumble and a recovery. He made the honorable mention list on the pre season voting at linebacker.
#21 Phillip Powell, DB – Looks like he missed a big portion of the season, no real meaningful stats, but he did get land on the honorable mention list. Craig Haley listed his return as a big help to this defense, in 2017 he had 64 tackles, 3 INTs, and 1 fumble recovery as a free safety.
Keys to a Grizzly victory
1. Keep Simmons in check. This guy is what makes this offense go and we’re going to see some eerie similarities to what Sneed can do for the Griz. He’s going to work to spread out the defense and then beat us from time to time with his feet. The Grizzly defense is going to be tested right away with maybe one of the 3 or 4 best QBs they’ll see all season. I never expect perfect games from either sides in the opener, but this defense is going to have to be ready right away to get tested a lot.
2. Test that USD defense. With a new DC there’s presumably some amounts of unknown of what the Griz will see. Presumably USD won’t run a similar scheme to their porous defense they had last year so we’ll have to see what’s thrown our way. In theory the running game could have some opportunities… but who will be the guy carrying the rock for us? This is going to be a tough immediate test for Montana, going against a pretty big unknown right away.
3. Let JLM & Flowers go off. USD statistically didn’t cover punts or kicks well last year. While presumably a change in season should bring improvements and a focus on efficiency, the stats suggest our two dudes in the return game could have a fun day. I’m going to assume USD is going to put up some points, so being able to flip the field on kickoffs will be big. Additionally it always seems like teams kick to our dangerous returners more than they should earlier on in the season.
4. Show improvement on the OL. If this Grizzly team wants to improve from a few years of mediocrity, get back to the playoffs, and really get that RTD going, it has to start with the OL. We’re gong to see a heavily re-vamped OL and if they can help open running lanes, and keep Sneed from getting wrecked all the time, this offense could go off.
5. Win the turnover battle. This carries over from last season, when the Griz won in turnovers, they usually won the game. When they didn’t, they lost.
6. Flip those RZ and 3rd down stats. USD seems to be fairly efficient on 3rd down and scoring when in the red zone. They’ll provide a challenge for this Grizzly defense and the Griz will need to put a dent in their efficiency.
7. 40+ points. Both teams return a ton of skilled experience on offense, have some new faces on the OL, and have defenses that come in with some gaps, unknowns, and questions. This feels like it could be a shoot out.
8. Win in the 4th quarter. Holy crap, please. 4 of the 5 Griz losses last season they had the lead in the 4th. A lot of that was attributed to inexperience. That shouldn’t be the case as much now.
This game feels like a total toss-up to me. I think each offense can go stride for stride in this game. USD has a proven pass-rush, while the Griz have more experience and skill at LB and DB. To have what appears to be such an evenly matched game (on paper) right away is awfully intriguing.
Of course the challenge with early games is that sometimes one (or both) teams come out the gate a little slow. If that happens here for the Griz, they could be in big trouble. Likewise for USD, it could turn into a very similar type of game like the Griz had against UNI last season.
I’m excited to see this team show off what it’s been working on this off-season. No we won’t see it all right away, but I feel they’re well prepared, well lead, and are going to get out of South Dakota with a hard fought win. They could very well win it on their last possession… I’ll say the Griz take the day 41-38.