I believe I've seen this one this before.
The underdog Coyote chases around the smarter, faster, and more cunning runner for hours and never catches him despite his clever, conniving and earnest efforts.
I think you know the script too, and it doesn't end well for the Coyote.
The South Dakota Coyotes will look to track down the Badgers runners Montee Ball, James White, and Russell Wilson in Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Coyotes are led by head coach Ed Meierkort who, like several of his players, has ties to the state of Wisconsin. Meierkort began his head coaching career at UW-Stout and was there from 1993-2003.
Junior punter Cole Zwiefelhofer from Chippewa Falls, senior defensive lineman Jesse Weisbrod from Waupaca, senior defensive back Jim Thompson from Hayward, and sophomore Taylor Moore (Milwaukee, Wis.) all return to the state where they played prep football.
Zwiefelhofer, who, let's face it, may get a lot of action this Saturday, is the reigning Great West Special Teams Player of the Year. But you're not reading this to find out how well the Coyotes punter played in 2010.
The key to the Coyotes attack is senior quarterback Dante Warren. The Illinois-native was paramount in the Coyotes 2010 upset of Minnesota going 21-for-30 for 352 yards and three touchdowns. Warren also ran for two scores while compiling 82 yards on the ground. He is, without question, the Coyotes' most talented player.
His five touchdown passes and four interceptions in 2011 are nothing to rave about although three of his four INTs came against a good Air Force defense in the opener. Warren has completed 56.7% of his throws (34-60) this season. You would imagine Meierkort will keep his best player on the field for all of the game although we've seen some coaches (hello, Dave Doeren) who decide to go with an unproven back-up during intervals of the game.
The Coyote backs are decent and deep. Senior Chris Ganious and junior Marcus Sims split the work while Warren averages 12 attempts per game as well. All three runners have between 170 and 190 yards rushing on the season, and two of them, Sims and Warren have runs of over 50 yards.
The pass-catching Coyotes to be concerned about are junior and Sioux Falls-native Will Powell and senior wide receivers and return specialist Jeremy Blount. Powell leads the team in receptions with 12 while Blount leads the team in touchdowns (3) and all purpose yards (395). The Coyotes veteran offensive line is buoyed by senior left tackle Tom Compton.
Defensively, South Dakota returns 10 of 11 starters from a season ago. Needless to say the task of slowing down the Badgers will likely come from the linebacking corps which is where USD's two best defenders play. Seniors Aaron Broders and Shea Williams are 1-2 in tackling. Broders had 15 stops in USD's win over reigning FCS Champion Eastern Washington in week 2, earning him Great West Defensive Player of the Week honors.
The defensive player I'll be keyed on, however, is sophomore Tyler Starr, who appears to be a star in the making. Starr tallied three forced fumbles (recovered one) in the loss to Air Force. He has five sacks, six TFLs, and a pass break-up in 2011. His 17 tackles are good for third on the team. What's most remarkable about the Little Rock, Iowa (yes, Iowa) native is that he plays defensive tackle at 236 lbs! Needless to say, he'll be up against it this Saturday with UW's massive offensive line.
In the South Dakota secondary, senior Shane Potter and sophomore Aaron Swift are the ones to watch. Potter, a 6'2" corner from Minnesota, will likely get first crack at stopping Wisconsin wide receiver Nick Toon.
Keys to the Game
Offense: Play clean
The Badgers, uncharacteristically, committed six penalties in the first half and had only a decent time running the ball. Montee Ball claimed it was one of his worst performances in red and white and many lineman felt the same way about their own efforts. Even Russell Wilson turned the ball over once. The UW offense will not struggle in this game, but a clean, efficient effort is what the coaches and players strive for each week. UW isn't losing the game, but silly penalties and turnovers are not habits Wisconsin wants to form.
Defense: Force turnovers
The UW defense have given up only one touchdown in the last eight quarters. Pretty impressive. The only knock on the defense is its inability to create turnovers. These so-called "splash plays" are game changers and it's about time the Wisconsin defense created a short field for their offense.
Offense: Take chances
Northern Illinois's only touchdown last week came only after a long pass play in which the cornerback had great coverage. There won't be many opportunities, so when a big play is feasible, the Coyotes must capitalize.
The easiest avenue to an early exit from Camp Randall is to miss sure tackles and let the UW offense gain confidence. Russell Wilson and the rest of the Badger offense simply do not turn the ball over (okay, they've turned it over once) so don't expect them to hand you the football with silly mistakes. You must tackle and continue to tackle because the Wisconsin offense is equal parts ruthless and relentless. Giving up 40 points isn't nearly as bad as giving up 70.
A mirror-image of last week. The Badgers fire on almost all cylinders and win 49-7.