SIOUX FALLS – For the third straight season, the No. 13 University of Sioux Falls Football Team (9-2) is headed to the NCAA DII Football Championships. The Cougars were seeded sixth and one of seven teams from Super Region Four to earn playoff berths in the 28-team field, according to an announcement Sunday by the NCAA DII national playoff committee.
USF, which was ranked fifth in the regional rankings last week, dropped a spot after a 27-23 setback to No. 1 Minnesota State, which was seeded first in the final rankings released today. The Cougars will travel to face No. 5 Midwestern State (9-0), which was seeded third, at Memorial Stadium in Wichita Falls, Texas on Saturday, Nov. 18. Midwestern State captured the Lone Star Conference title.
The USF/Midwestern State victor will advance to a region semifinal matchup with winner of the Minnesota State-Colorado State-Pueblo game.
"We have a bunch of happy players and coaches," said first-year USF head football coach Jon Anderson, whose team finished third in the NSIC and became the fourth straight USF team to win at least nine games. "While we just missed winning our league championship, the seniors and this team will get a chance to continue their season in the playoffs. I am proud of our players and coaches who have committed to success here. They have worked hard and because they believe and love each other, they have a bond that enables them to embrace opportunities," added Anderson, who will coach in the DII playoffs for the first time.
USF, which has a DII-best 24-year consecutive winning season streak, will be making their third straight NCAA DII playoff appearance and fourth straight postseason berth overall in just six years in NCAA DII. In 2014, the Cougars (10-1) were invited to the Mineral Water Bowl (42-10 win over Central Oklahoma). In 2015, the Cougars were seeded sixth and faced #3 seed Henderson State (23-16 loss) in the DII playoffs first round. In 2016, USF won its first-ever NSIC title and earned the #2 seed in the region. USF defeated #7 seed Azusa Pacific, 34-21 at Bob Young Field in the opening round. After advancing to the "Sweet 16," the Cougars dropped a 27-24 overtime decision to #3 seeded Harding in the second round at Bob Young Field. USF also had significant success at the NAIA level, winning four national titles before moving to DII in 2011.
"I am so pleased for Jon (Anderson), his staff and especially the team. This really means a lot for the program and the school," said four-year USF Director of Athletics Josh Snyder. "We are excited about the opportunity to earn a playoff berth for the third straight year." he said.
The Cougars, which have won 41 games over the past four seasons, were one of three NSIC teams selected to the playoffs as two-seeded Minnesota State (11-0) and Winona State (10-1) also earned berths. USF has one of the nation's top defenses, directed by defensive coordinator Nick Benedetto. The Cougars are ranked second in total defense at 234.1 yards per game while ranking second in defensive scoring at 11.5 points per game and third in rushing defense, allowing 63.3 yards per game. The offense, directed by offensive coordinator Jim Chapin, is averaging 383.2 yards per game, which ranks fifth in the NSIC.
The #1 seed in Super Region 4 is GNAC champion Central Washington (11-0) which earned a bye and will face the winner of game between fifth-seeded Texas A&M Commerce and fourth seeded Winona State.
"What a special year this has been," said Anderson. "We are ready to get to work and prepare for playoffs next Saturday."
NCAA DII – Super Region 3 Playoff Matchups
#1 seed Central Washington (11-0), bye
##7 Colorado Pueblo (9-2) at #2 Minnesota State (11-0), Mankato, Minn.
#6 Sioux Falls (9-2) at #3 Midwestern State (9-0), Wichita Falls, Texas.
#5 Texas A&M Commerce (9-1) at #4 Winona State (10-1), Winona, Minn.