VERMILLION, S.D.  -- South Dakota recorded one of the biggest wins in program history with a 30-17 victory against top-ranked and defending FCS national champion Eastern Washington on Saturday at the DakotaDome. It was the Coyotes’ first-ever win versus a No. 1 team since moving to Division I FCS status.

The Coyotes (1-1) used all phases of the game to upend the higher-powered Eagles.

Their offense was efficient -- rushing for 198 yards and finishing with 324 total yards. The defense held Eastern Washington (0-2) to only 11 rushing yards and forced two key turnovers, while the special teams converted three field goals to help the Coyotes pull the upset.

“This is a big win for us. This is the level we’re supposed to be at,” South Dakota head coach Ed Meierkort said. “We are an FCS team now to be reckoned with. We can play with anybody and we provided it today.”

Senior running back Chris Ganious had 85 yards rushing on 15 carries. Senior quarterback Dante Warren was 8-of-15 passing for 126 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for 59 yards. Junior receiver Will Powell had five catches for 49 yards.

Ganious moved into third all-time on the school’s career rushing list as he has 2,564 career yards surpassing Jared Schwenn (1994-97) with 2,513 yards.

Eastern Washington at South Dakota
 
First Downs 22 16
Rushing Offense 11 198
Passing Offense 369 126
FCS Scoreboard

Senior linebacker Adam Broders had a game-high 15 tackles for the Coyotes, while senior linebacker Shea Williams contributed 10 stops. Sophomore Tyler Starr had two sacks to go along with five tackles.

Broders tied his career-high in tackles matching last season’s output against Northern Iowa.

The Coyote defense controlled the first quarter, holding Eastern Washington to just 52 yards on 18 plays -- and just three first downs.

“We came out with a lot of energy,” South Dakota safety Jim Thompson said. “We just came together today.”

The Coyotes’ first touchdown came as a result of a three-play, 45-yard drive, which included a 14-yard run by senior Jeremy Blount, and a big 26-yard run by Ganious. Warren capped off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown on a quarterback draw for a 7-0 lead.

South Dakota added to the lead in the second quarter thanks to another big play. Warren found a streaking Blount down the middle for a 48-yard touchdown, giving the Coyotes a 14-0 lead with 10:55 left in the half.

“My job was to get between both the linebacker and the safety and split them and use my speed,” Blount said. “It worked out good.”

Then, the Coyote defense came up with their first key interception.

Eastern Washington faced a fourth-and-3 at the Coyote 37-yard line; quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell’s pass was intercepted by senior safety Jim Thompson and returned 67 yards for a electrifying touchdown, pushing the Coyote lead to 21-0 with 7:49 left in the half.

“We were in man-to-man coverage, and he ran a quick little out and turned my head quickly and it worked out perfect,” Thompson said.

“Jimmy Thompson’s interception for a touchdown was a huge play,” Meierkort said.

The Coyotes kept the high-powered Eagles off of the scoreboard until the final seconds of the first half when Eastern Washington scored to cut the lead to 21-7 as Mitchell engineered the longest drive of the day with a 14 play, 72-yard driving lasting 3:57 which ended when he fired a 2-yard strike to Nicholas Edwards. Edwards led all receivers with 138 yards on 13 catches.

Although Eastern Washington held a slight 178-171 edge in total yards at halftime, the Coyote had a huge 84-8 edge in rushing yards. Ganious had 49 yards on just seven carries. Warren was 5-of-9 passing for 87 yards and a score, while Blount had two catches for 60 yards.

In the second half, Eastern Washington kicked a field goal to cut the Coyote lead to 21-10, but the Coyotes responded with a 33-yard field goal by sophomore Kevin Robb with 1:24 left in the third quarter to push the lead back to 24-10.

Eastern Washington came back with a quick touchdown on a four play drive using just 1:16 off the clock to cut the lead to 24-17 as the third quarter closed. Wide receiver Greg Herd caught a 27-yard pass from Mitchell for the score.

The Coyotes then went on an eight-play, 44-yard drive -- keyed by a 23-yard pass from Warren to Powell plus a 12-yard run by Powell -- that was capped off by a 33-yard field goal by Robb with 11:40 left to give the Coyotes a 27-17 lead.

The Eagles began driving on the ensuing possession, but the Coyote defense again answered the call. Senior Marquis Butler intercepted Mitchell deep in Coyote territory, and his big 63-yard return gave South Dakota the ball in EWU territory with 9:54 left in the contest.

South Dakota turned Butler’s interception return into a 30-yard field goal by Robb with 4:23 left to make the scored 30-17. The Coyotes forced a turnover on downs on Eastern Washington’s final offensive possession to ice the win.

“It was a tremendous effort on both sides of the ball,” Meierkort said. “Our defense took a lot of snaps, and continued to play hard. Eastern Washington is a fantastic football team. Today was our day.”