CFB: USF has 41-17 setback at Concordia-St. Paul

ST. PAUL – Despite a 385-to-315 edge in total yards, the University of Sioux Falls Football Team (0-1, 0-1 NSIC) had a 12-game winning streak against Concordia St. Paul (1-0, 1-0 NSIC South) end in a 41-17 loss at Sea Foam Stadium on Thursday night.

“We had some mistakes tonight that hurt us,' said USF Head Coach Jon Anderson, whose team played without All-Americans Hakeem Johnson and Harlon Hill finalist Gabriel Watson. “We will rebound. Our guys will stick together; we will make some changes, and we will get this fixed,” he said.

After scoring on the opening possession, USF fell behind 27-7 at halftime due some miscues which included a blocked punt and a turnover deep in CSP territory. The Cougars made a charge in the second half but couldn’t sustain the rally as CSP closed with two late touchdowns to create some separation and get their first win over USF since a 24-16 decision the first time the teams played in 1971.

USF, which will return home to host Winona State on Saturday, Sept. 14 on Military Appreciation Day, saw their four-game winning streak on Thursday night openers come to an end. The 27-7 deficit at halftime is the largest by USF since a 44-3 loss to Minnesota State on Nov. 7, 2015 when the Cougars trailed, 27-0, at the break.

“We had a good start and did some nice things on offense but bogged down in the second quarter,” said Anderson. “Certainly, we made a charge at them in the second half but we didn’t quite finish the run,” he said.

Despite the score differential, USF had advantage in a number of the final stats. They had 385 yards on 69 plays for a respectable 5.6 yard per play. USF held a 168-to-156 edge in rushing yards without Watson. In his first start, redshirt sophomore Thuro Reisdorfer had a career-high with 13 carries for 92 yards and had a career-long 44-yard run. USF also had the edge in passing yards, 217-to-159 and a 16-15 edge in first downs. However, the stats that weren't favorable to the Cougars was turnovers while the home-standing Golden Bears didn't relinquish the ball.

USF, which had 36 offensive plays for 192 yards at halftime, was led by senior quarterback Caden Walters who completed 16-of-33 passes for 217 yards and a TD. However, Walters, who had 11 carries for 39 yards and a TD, was sacked six times, including twice by All-American Chris Garrett.

On defense, the Cougars recorded a pair of sacks and eight tackles for loss. Redshirt junior Joey Wehrkamp had five tackles, half sack and two tackles for loss. Senior linebacker Brody Grantham supplied six tackles while senior defensive back Ryan Nieman had a team-high seven tackles and a TFL.

The USF receiving corps was led by redshirt junior Ty Smith who had four catches for 70 yards while senior Nate Johnson had three receptions for 60 yards with a long of 36 yards.

The offensive attack by CSP was led by senior quarterback Maxon Hutton, who completed 13-of-22 passes for 159 yards and two TD passes while rushing 14 times for 87 yards.

Game Breakdown
On the opening possession of the season, Walters scored on a 5-yard run 1:21 into the first quarter. On the six-play, 75-yard drive, Walters completed passes to Smith (26 yards) and Johnson (36 yards) as USF moved to a quick opening score for a 7-0 lead.

CSP responded with a drive inside the USF 10-yard line before the drive stalled and Danny Laudet’s 30-yard field goal pulled CSP within 7-3 of USF. On the 10-play, 68-yard drive, CSP used 5:49 of the clock.

On the ensuing USF possession, the Cougars looked to be driving for a second score when the Golden Bears forced a fumble at the goal line and when the ball ended up in their possession in the end zone, a touchback stopped the USF threat. And, the play proved to be a turning point as CSP promptly used a momentum shift to their advantage. CSP drove the ball nine plays and 68 yards across three minutes with Laudet’s 29-yard field goal cutting the deficit to 7-6. Then, the Cougars had a series of second quarter errors which proved costly.

After a penalty forced USF to punt a second time from the shadow of the goal line, USF had a short punt and CSP caught the short punt with a return to the USF 22-yard line. Two plays later, Hutton connected on a 20-yard TD pass from Hutton to Marcus Gustaveson at 11:45 of the second quarter. The Golden Bears never trailed again. They built a double-digit lead late in the half as Hutton hit MJ Williams with a 45-yard TD pass for a 20-7 lead with 1:35 to play in the second quarter.

Late in the half, the Cougars tried to cut into the deficit and picked up a first down before Walters was sacked two straight downs which forced another USF punt from deep in their own territory. That is when CSP added onto their lead. Garrett blocked a punt and Lorenzo Kendricks picked up the loose ball and fell into the end zone with a one-yard return as the Golden Bears took a 27-7 lead.

Despite the deficit, the Cougars came out with significant energy in the second half. They quickly forced a three and out by CSP and cut into the deficit as Reisdorfer took off on a 44-yard run which was followed by Walters’ 10-yard TD toss to Ja’Tai Jenkins to draw within, 27-14. Jenkins, who scored his first career TD on the play, had 24 yards on four carries in his first extended action of his career.

After a second straight three and out forced by the USF defense, the Cougars put up more points. On their second possession of the third quarter, Walters had a career-best 59-yard run to the CSP five-yard line to set up Daniel Esparza’s 20-yard field goal, which was the first of his career. Esparza’s field goal drew USF within 27-17 with 6:35 to play. In the quarter, USF outgained CSP, 195-to-25 in total offense.

After stopping the Golden Bears early in the fourth quarter, USF second turnover, this time on a muffed punt, set up CSP for a game-clinching score. On third down from the USF’s nine-yard line, Hutton found an opening in the middle and scored a rushing TD as CSP led, 34-17. After USF turned the ball over on downs, Laquan Preston, who had 13 carries for 80 yards, closed the scoring with a seven-yard scoring run with 4:20 to play.