The game at UNI

Against a team that will not be in the mood to mess around too much, the Coyote football team will try to end an 18-game road losing streak this week in Cedar Falls. Given that USD has been installed as a three or four touchdown underdog against the Panthers, I do not think a loss in this game would have the same emotional effect as losing at Western Illinois, a place where a well-played game would have stopped the streak.

 I thought if they’d kept the wheels on against Western Illinois, they’d have won that game. The difference this week is that a well-played game would not be a lock for a win. The Panthers have lost the last two games, but it’s still a top-ten program.

I was on the radio with John Thayer on Friday morning and he asked me if the potential was there for this team to go over to the other side – be a team that could win a few more conference games this season, in other words, and approach a point where playoff contingencies could be talked about in public without any snickering.

My response went something like this: To bridge that gap, USD is going to have to clean things up. Get through a few games in a row without the ridiculous stuff getting in the way all the time. If the Coyotes seriously want to consider closing out an incredibly difficult six-game second-half of the season with a few more wins, there will be a point when an opposing coach preparing to play USD says something like “Well, they stopped beating themselves and when they did that, they became a pretty good football team.”

Yes, the Coyotes have handled fourth-quarter adversity very well the last two games, but there is a self-inflicted element to that adversity that would have to disappear over the next six weeks for USD to start surprising FCS teams. Increasing team strength, depth and attitude has been a gradual process for the program and one where progress has obviously been made. Unfortunately, shoring up the elimination of basic mistakes – something that would appear to be a far simpler and quicker fix than the other project – is proving to be a stubborn foe.

Numbers on penalties, etc.

The Coyote football team has 40 penalties for 344 yards this year. Their opponents have 38 for 319 yards. Not a huge disparity, but for a team trying make the turnaround, those flags have been getting in the way of things like two-score leads, if not victories.

It puts USD in 75th place on the list of the least penalized teams in the nation based on yardage lost. For sheer quantity, the Coyotes’ 40 puts them in 73rd place. Jacksonville takes the top (or in this case, bottom) spot in both categories, tooling along at an 11.17 penalties-a-game clip for 594 yards. If it seems like the Coyotes are getting a lot of flags, imagine if they’d been penalized an additional 27 times. Then you’d be in Jacksonville territory. What’s Jacksonville’s home stadium’s nickname? How about The Laundromat? Just an idea.

Other stats of note:

With two blocked punts, the Coyotes share last place in the FCS with nine other teams. With four blocked kicks, they share 113th place with eight other teams. Bethune-Cookman is at the very bottom with six blocked kicks.