Offense in a variety of forms and another stellar shutdown defensive effort lifted the #4 University of Sioux Falls Football Team (10-0, 6-0 NSIC South) to a 51-7 milestone win over Upper Iowa before 1,613 in attendance at Bob Young Field. With the victory, the Cougars clinched the NSIC South with a 6-0 mark and earned a share of the NSIC championship with a game to play to win it outright.
It is USF's first-ever regular season NSIC conference title in school history. This season, the Cougars recorded its 16th 10-win season and recorded its 50th win at the NCAA DII level. Overall, USF recorded its 20th overall conference title and first since 2010.
"This was a great effort and I can't tell you how much this means. It means a lot to earn a share of the conference title," said USF Head Football Coach Jed Stugart, whose team was ranked #2 in the most recent regional rankings. "Our guys knew what was at stake and they battled and showed everyone they wanted this one. I couldn't be more proud of the way they came out fast and then finished strong," added Stugart, whose team recorded its third 10-win season of his tenure (since 2010). In fact, USF has won at least nine games in four of the five years in the NSIC.
Against Upper Iowa, the Cougars, directed by offensive coordinator Dustan Hovorka, recorded its sixth game of at least 500 yards in total offense this season, accumulating 557, including 360 passing and 197 on the ground. When USF has had 500 yards in a game, they are 23-1 since 2010.
Leading the way was senior quarterback Luke Papilion, who completed 19-of-29 passes for 269 yards and a TD. He also added four carries for 24 yards and his 16th rushing TD of the season. Papilion, who had his 43rd career rushing TD and had 293 yards in total offense, extended his school record total in total offense with 11,929 yards, passing yards with 8,690 and rushing yards at 3,235. He also tied Dax Michelena (1997-2001) for the most combined TDs in school history with 119.
While USF was held to a season-low 197 yards rushing, the pass game was clicking as Papilion utilized numerous targets, including junior wide out Kyle Groeneweg, who registered his first 100-yard receiving game with three catches for 108 yards and two TDs. He had 237 all-purpose yards, adding 26 yards rushing, 64 yards on punt returns and 39 on kickoff returns.
Senior wide receiver Josh Angulo was a second USF receiver to go over 100 yards as he had six receptions for 104 yards. In addition, tight end Clint Sigg had four catches for 35 yards but his biggest play came on USF's first offensive play. On a throwback play, Sigg connected with Groeneweg on a 74-yard TD pass just 12 seconds into the game. It was the second time this season that USF had a non-quarterback throw a TD pass and Groeneweg was on the receiving end of both plays. In week one, Brady Rose had a 39-yard TD pass to Groeneweg.
On the ground Max Mickey led USF with 17 carries for 92 yards as he went over 1,400 yards on the season with 1,418. As a result Mickey moved into ninth place on USF's season rushing chart, passing Jim Pehringer, who had 1,416 in 1988.
USF's defense, directed by coordinator Tremaine Jackson, continues to be a force. They held Upper Iowa to 155 yards below its season average (468.0 per game) with 313 yards on 89 plays, or 3.5 per play. USF limited Upper Iowa, the sixth-ranked rushing attack in the NSIC, to just 129 yards on 43 carries or or 3.0 yards per carry. USF harassed IUI quarterbacks all day, finishing with four sacks. USF's defense also had eight tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, nine pass breakups and an interception.
Leading the way was senior linebacker Michael Mehling, who had eight tackles, a sack, 2.5 TFLs, two pass breakups and two forced fumbles. Juniors Josh Butler and Kyle Campiotti had seven tackles while senior cornerback Clifford Redmond finished with six tackles, a fumble recovery and his eighth career interception. Redmond recorded his fifth interception of the season and he took it back for a 30-yard TD. With that score, USF recorded its second defensive TD of the season and the 38th since 2010. Senior defensive end Evan Gentry added four tackles, including two sacks and a TFL. He now has 40.5 career TFLs and 19 sacks, which ties him with teammate Westly Johnson for 10th on USF's all-time sacks chart.
After Sigg connected with Groeneweg on a gadget play early, the Cougars didn't waste time adding to the lead. Mickey capped a five-play, 48-yard scoring drive with a two-yard TD run at the 8:03 mark for a 14-0 lead.
But Upper Iowa had the answer as Dimitri Morales, who completed 22-of-36 passes for 174 yards, connected with Jalen Amis on a 13-yard pitch and catch for a TD.
After that score, the two defenses controlled the game until late in the second quarter. USF's Brett Garner connected on a 29-yard field goal as USF built a 17-7 lead with 5:50 left in the second quarter. But the Cougars weren't done. With just 1:49 left on the clock, Papilion orchestrated a five-play, 73-yard scoring drive, which included two receptions to Angulo of 15 and 35 yards, to set up Papilion's 13-yard TD run. While the extra point was missed, USF led 23-7 at the break.
When USF leads at halftime, they simply refuse to lose. And, that held true against Upper Iowa as USF won its 60th game in 64 tries when leading at the break during the Stugart era. With a 15-point lead at half, it was going to be tough sledding for Upper Iowa given that USF generally controls the second half. With a 28-0 second half edge today that held true. In fact, USF now has a 132-24 points edge in third quarter scoring and 243-to-88 in the second half.
With 9:46 to play in the third quarter, Mickey scored his second TD of the game on an 18-yard TD run to cap a 10-play, 77-yard drive in 4:33 and push the lead to 30-7. In the fourth quarter, Groeneweg hauled in a 27-yard TD strike from Papilion, who tight-roped the line of scrimmage before spotting his wideout, for a 37-7 lead with 10:57 to play. The scoring play capped a nine-play, 64-yard drive which used up 3:55 of the clock. Then, Redmond's pick six not only iced the game but extended the Cougars' margin to 44-7 with 10:23 to play. At the 7:17 mark, USF redshirt freshman Colton Myles grabbed a little glory with his first career TD on a 16-yard run to wrap up the scoring on the day.
Next week, the Cougars will host Wayne State at Bob Young Field with a noon start.
~ USF improved to 67-0 all-time when scoring over 50 points. The Cougars also extended its home record to 59-3 at Bob Young Field.
~ The Cougars have cracked 5,000 yards in total offense on the year. With 5,386, they have passed last year's season total of 4,829 (12 games) in 10 games. It is the fourth time in five seasons that USF has cracked 5K in total offense.
~ With four sacks today, USF now has 37 on the season, which is tied for the third most since 2002.
~ With six receptions for 104 yards, Josh Angulo moved with one catch of tying Jon Ryan (199, 2007-10) for third on USF's all-time receiving chart. Today he moved past Alex Anderson (193, 2007-10) for fourth all-time.