The No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers (3-0) take on their one and only FCS opponent of the year on Saturday at 2:30 p.m., South Dakota (2-1). The Coyotes, though an FCS squad, are a formidable team within their conference, the Great West. Although not nearly as talented as Wisconsin, as any college football fan knows, no team can take their opponent lightly. We don’t need any repeats of Appalachian State…
Here’s a quick scouting report on the Coyotes.
Although their two wins—Eastern Washington and Northwestern Oklahoma State—were against a fellow FCS opponent and an NAIA foe, South Dakota has put up some points this year. They’re ranked No. 20 in the latest FCS polls and can be explosive.
Their quarterback, Dante Warren, is a dual threat. This year, he’s 34-of-60 passing for 488 yards and five touchdowns. However, he has also thrown four interceptions. The Badgers could take advantage of his inconsistency.
However, he has made up for his erratic passing with his legs. On the ground, he’s gained 185 yards on 36 carries and has scored two touchdowns.
But, if Wisconsin can pressure him like they did Chandler Harnish last week, any hope of a Coyote upset will vanish.
South Dakota uses two running backs pretty heavily. Their top running back, Chris Ganious, leads the team with 187 yards on 36 carries and a touchdown.
However, the Coyotes also employ another running back, Marcus Sims. Sims has 172 yards on just 21 carries. He’s averaging over eight yards a carry and could be South Dakota’s most dangerous threat.
Similar to what the Badgers did last weekend, if they can shut down the Coyote rushing attack, it will make it much more difficult for Warren to beat them through the air.
Through three weeks, the Coyotes have showed a number of receivers capable of making big plays.
First and foremost is Will Powell. On the year, he’s got 12 catches for 178 yards and two touchdowns. He’s a threat downfield and can definitely make plays if given the chance.
Two other receivers, Jeremy Blount and Dustin Nowotny, both have eight receptions and could also hurt the Badgers. Along with Powell, Blount is another player Wisconsin will have to keep an eye on, as he is averaging over 21 yards a catch and leads the team with three touchdowns.
Through three weeks, the Coyote offensive line’s performance has been a little mixed.
They’ve paved the way for over 209 rushing yards per game and five touchdowns on the ground. That is their strength.
On the other end—pass blocking—they’ve struggled. Opposing defenses have already recorded 10 sacks and Warren hasn’t had a ton of time in the pocket.
Wisconsin should look to take advantage of that.
Probably the strongest defensive unit for South Dakota, the defensive line may be the only facet of the Coyote defense that could challenge the Wisconsin offense.
Although opponents are averaging over 176 yards on the ground, the D-line has been getting great pressure on opposing QBs. They already have 10 sacks, led by defensive end Tyler Starr, who has five.
This unit, though they’ll probably be successful for the rest of the season, may struggle against Wisconsin.
Along with the defensive line, they’ve contributed to the high rushing totals for opponents and also are partly responsible for some gaudy passing numbers as well.
Against an offense with running backs quicker, faster and stronger than them and tight ends with the same capabilities, they could be a unit Wisconsin picks on.
Although this unit is giving up over 224 yards through the air and has already allowed four touchdowns, they’ve also recorded five interceptions.
Jim Thompson, their senior defensive back from Hayward, Wis., leads the team with two interceptions and may not be the best guy to pick on.
But, let’s be honest, Nick Toon and Jared Abbrederis should be able to find their share of open space on Saturday.
On the year, placekicker Kevin Robb has been stellar, making all five of his field goal attempts and averaging around 59 yards on his kickoffs.
Cole Zwiefelhofer, from Chippewa Falls, Wis., has handled the punting duties for South Dakota this season and has been outstanding. He’s averaging 42.2 yards on 13 punts and has already pinned five inside the 20-yard line.
The Coyotes have used three men on kick returns this year, though receiver Jeremy Blount has received the majority of them. On six returns, he’s averaging 20.8 yards and has a long of 39.
Blount also handles the punt return duties and has actually been pretty dangerous so far. He’s averaging 15.6 yards on five returns and has a long of 24. Wisconsin cannot afford to let up when he has the ball.