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Jeff Kolpack, Published September 25 2012

Missouri Valley era begins for South Dakota

FARGO – The Missouri Valley Football Conference continues this week with games in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Brookings, S.D., and Carbondale, Ill. History will be made in the other game.

The University of South Dakota plays its first-ever conference game when it hosts Illinois State. The Coyotes joined the Valley for this season after spending its Division I reclassification years in the Great West Football Conference.

The Coyotes have played league members in nonconference play the last few years, but Saturday will be the first one that counts in the standings. Illinois State, for instance, beat USD 28-3 last year.

“We know this is the start of a rigorous schedule the rest of the way,” said USD head coach Joe Glenn. “We think the Missouri Valley is a good fit for our school and our program.”

The Coyotes (1-2) play a Redbirds team that is on the rise. ISU is 4-0 for the first time since 1967 and is ranked 12th in The Sports Network Top 25 Football Championship Subdivision media poll.

Glenn described the Valley teams as hard-nosed and tough, although he said the Redbirds play a different style of defense.

“This is a unique defense,” he said. “You don’t see many teams that stunt and blitz 60 percent of the time. The way they do it, they can make for a lot of confusion if you let it get to you. You have to find a way to burn it.”

Elsewhere in the Valley:

E Southern Illinois has won nine straight in its series against Indiana State and will try to make it 10 at home. The Salukis won at Missouri State last week 14-6 despite going 0 of 13 on third-down conversions.

“Anytime you can win on the road, it’s a big win,” said SIU head coach Dale Lennon. “They’re not always the prettiest games, but we found a way to win and that’s something we’ve struggled with the last two years.”

E South Dakota State’s 24-10 win at Indiana State last week gave the Jackrabbits five victories in their last six road games. The only hiccup was the season opener at Kansas. SDSU running back Zach Zenner remained the FCS leader in rushing at 223.8 yards per game and it’s not even close – he’s just over 77 yards ahead of Indiana State’s Shakir Bell.

“Their colors are blue for a reason. They’re blue collar,” Missouri State head coach Terry Allen said of the Jacks. “He runs so hard downhill. He’s not a slasher. He sits behind that line and he just goes.”

E Youngstown State and Western Illinois are idle, giving Youngstown two weeks to prepare for North Dakota State.

“It’s a good time to have a bye week,” said YSU head coach Eric Wolford. “Now we go to Fargo next week and we have a chance to spend some extra time on them.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia