Cougars Get Gritty Win At Upper Iowa
USF Improves To 9-1 With 19-7 Win
FAYETTE, IOWA – Running the ball mixed with shutdown defense and strong special teams play was the recipe of success for the No. 13 University of Sioux Falls Football Team (9-1, 5-1 NSIC South) in a 19-7 victory at Upper Iowa (6-4, 3-3 NSIC South) before 1,248 in attendance on Saturday at Harms-Eischeid Stadium.
Senior Jason Towns recorded his fourth 100-yard rushing game and set a career-high with 201 all purpose yards; senior linebacker Kyle Campiotti had a career-first interception TD return and the special teams unit came up with a series of big plays to lead the Cougars to its 17th straight road victory in NSIC play. The victory was important for USF, which sits fifth in the most recent NCAA DII Super Region Four rankings, which determine playoff participants.
Punter/kicker Stuart Vanden Heuvel, who already has earned a pair of NSIC Special Teams Player of the Week honors, shined again Saturday by knocking in two more field goals, averaged 39.8 yards per punt, placed two punts inside the 20-yard line and had a 52-yard punt. Vanden Heuvel is now one made field goal away from USF’s seasonal school record of 17 set by T.C. Fraser in 2004. Also on special teams, sophomore Parker Gregston recovered a muffed punt return to set up the go-ahead score in the victory.
“This is really a hard-nosed football team and one that genuinely loves to play this game,” said USF head football coach Jon Anderson. “Today was another example of this team sticking together when things weren’t going exactly as they would have liked. They dug in and played hard, focusing on those things – details – that are necessary in winning a game. Anytime you win a game in this league, you need to be pleased,” said Anderson.
For the fifth time in six years at NCAA DII, the Cougars have opened 9-1 or better. USF has proven to be road warriors with a 6-0 mark in 2017 and 17 straight over the past three seasons. The nationally ranked USF defense again proved dominant, limiting an opponent to 10 points for the seventh time this season.
With No. 1 Minnesota State winning on Saturday, the Cougars will look to earn a share of the NSIC title when the two D2 powers gather in the regular season finale at noon next Saturday (Nov. 11) at Bob Young Field.
With the benefit of senior linebacker Kyle Campiotti’s first career interception return for a TD (67 yards), USF took a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter. Upper Iowa tied the game at 7-7 late in the first half before the Cougars outscored the home-standing Peacocks, 12-0, in the second half. .
For the eighth time in 10 games, USF, which ranks second nationally in both rushing and total defense, held an opponent to under 240 yards as the Peacocks totaled just 238 in the game, including just 70 yards rushing (33 yards in the second half). Campiotti, whose parents were at the game, had another big game for USF with four tackles, tackle for loss, plus the pick-six which gave USF a 7-0 lead. Michael Atonio led USF with six tackles while freshman Michael Enalls and senior Adria Botella registered the first sacks of their careers. Botella, who made the switch from offense to defense last spring, continued to come up with big plays as he had a blocked kick in each of the past two games (Concordia-St. Paul, Augustana).
Senior running back Jason Towns again led the USF offense, recording his fourth career 100-yard rushing game with 120 yards on 29 carries. He also had three receptions for 16 yards and 65 yards in punt and kick off returns. The 120 rushing yards leaves him just seven yards short of 1,000 career rushing yards (993). Freshman wide receiver Ty Smith had a career-day with six catches for 100 yards and a TD. He recorded his first 100-yard receiving game of his career. In addition, quarterback Ian Fieber completed 15-of-22 passes for 153 yards and a TD. USF had 336 yards in total offense, including 183 yards rushing.
“I kept joking with Jason (Towns), that he was getting a bunch of eight-yard runs today and needed 10 yards,” said Anderson. “But, he is something. Jason is very resilient with tremendous energy and spark,” said Anderson. “Credit our offensive line for their effort to day and what can you say about this defense. They were really good again this week,” he said.
Neither offense was able to put together any sustained offense in the opening quarter with each side recording three, three-and-outs. The longest drive was seven plays by the Peacocks. When UIU looked like it might strike first, the Cougars’ defense stepped up. After UIU drove to the USF 35-yard line, Campiotti picked off quarterback Brent Lammers’ pass in the right flat and raced to pay-dirt for a 7-0 USF lead with 12:10 to play in the second quarter.
Late in the half (2:43), USF had an opportunity to build on the lead, taking possession after a short punt at the UIU 49-yard line. After an eight-yard completion to Smith, Fieber’s pass was picked off by Jordan Rommes of UIU and returned 32 yards.
From there, Lammers, who completed 17-of-33 passes for 167 yards and an interception, drove UIU to a tying score in four plays, culminating with a 22-yard TD strike to Keagan Pinter. With 56 seconds to play in the half, USF was able to respond and drove into UIU territory but a second interception ended the threat.
Despite being tied, USF had control of the game. In fact, when tied or leading at halftime in 2017, the Cougars are tough to beat, improving to 9-0 on the season. With a 12-0 edge in the final half, USF built its overall second half margin to 112-to-46 over opponents. In the fourth quarter, the advantage is 65-to-7 as USF hasn’t allowed a TD to an opponent in the nine games they have won.
Using a big play from special teams and the steady leg of Vanden Heuvel, USF built a 13-7 lead in the third quarter. After USF’s opening drive stalled, Gregston came up with his fumble recovery off a muffed UIU punt return to set USF up at the UIU 21-yard line early in the third quarter. After USF’s drive stalled, Vanden Heuvel hammered the first of two field goals on the day with his 27-yarder giving USF a 10-7 lead with 9:59 to play in the third quarter.
After USF forced a three-and-out from UIU, the Cougars drove 61 yards and added three points to the lead on Vanden Heuvel’s 23-yard field goal with 3:03 to play in the quarter. Big plays on the drive was a 13-yard pass to Smith, and runs of 11 and 10 yards by Winston Maxwell, who finished with 15 carries for 57 yards.
The Cougars put up their final score early in the fourth quarter after Towns had a 15-yard punt return to the UIU 42-yard line. From there, Towns had two carries for 12 yards and Maxwell had a pair of carries for five yards to set up USF at the Peacocks’ 24-yard line. Then, Fieber connected with Smith on a 24-yard TD strike and a 19-7 lead with 14:21 to play.
After that, the Cougars allowed just three first downs the rest of the way in recording its fifth victory in six games against the Peacocks.
~ Career firsts for USF – Parker Gregston first career fumble recovery; Adria Botella and Michael Enalls each with sacks
~ USF lowered its points allowed per game to 9.9 and kept the total points under 100 for the season (99).
~ The Cougars held its eighth opponent this season to less than 100 yards rushing.
~ USF recorded two more sacks and now have 33 on the season.
~ On the season, the Cougars have a 1,989-to-607 advantage in rushing yards. That amounts to a 198-9-to-60.7 yards per game advantage and 4.3-to-1.9 yards per carry. In total yards, USF now has a 382.9-to-230.5 yards advantage per game.
-Recap Courtesy USF Athletics