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Preview: Oklahoma Welcomes the South Dakota Coyotes to Norman

Let’s be honest, South Dakota shouldn’t pose too much of a problem, but this is what we want to see out of the Sooners.

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Quarterback Jalen Hurts warms up while head coach Lincoln Riley of the Oklahoma Sooners - Getty Images - Brett Deering
Getty Images - Brett Deering

The Oklahoma Sooners made the most of their primetime Sunday night matchup with Houston by securing the 49-31 win. The Sooners capitalized on their opportunity to show the nation that, once again, they are contenders to make a college football playoff appearance.

Before the Sooners can get to the playoff though, they need to get through the rest of their schedule, and that starts this Saturday with South Dakota coming to town.

Head coach Bob Nielson and the Coyotes missed out on an ample opportunity to start the season off with a big win. The Coyotes were defeated 31-17 by the Montana Grizzlies, a fellow FCS opponent. Starting the season with two straight losses isn’t the ideal situation to help jump-start a team back into the FCS playoffs. However, Nielson’s team has nothing to lose in Saturday’s match-up, and they will do everything in their power to vie for the upset.

Game Details

  • When: SAT, SEP 7th, 6:00 PM CT
  • Where: Oklahoma Memorial Stadium
  • Forecast: Sunny, High in mid-90s
  • TV: Pay-Per-View
  • Stream: SoonerSportsTV
  • Betting Line: Okla -39.5, O/U 75.5

South Dakota Coyotes (0-1)

After last season’s 4-7 record, the South Dakota Coyotes had hoped to get off on the right foot to start the season. Coach Nielson hired defensive coordinator Travis Johansen to turn around a defensive unit that gave up 34.2 points a game last season. That ranked 95th amongst FCS teams.

The Coyote’s defensive woes continued last weekend by giving up 510 total yards. Montana quarterback Dalton Sneed had a field day with South Dakota’s secondary. He threw for 430 yards with three touchdowns.

Linebacker Jack Cochrane, the team’s returning leading tackler, was a bright spot for the defense with 9 tackles and one interception. Cochrane, and two-time 1st-team All-Missouri Valley defensive end Darin Greenfield, look to turn the tide of defensive production.

Offensively, Senior quarterback Austin Simmons returns after a big junior campaign. Last season, Simmons threw for 3,124 yards. That was 13th overall in the FCS ranks. Simmons returns 9 out of his top ten pass-catchers, including all-conference wide receiver Dakarai Allen.

Simmons and wide receiver Kody Case look to compound their fine efforts from the game one loss versus Montana. Simmons threw for 246 yards and two touchdowns. Case had 11 receptions for 144 yards, and he was on the receiving end of Simmon’s two touchdown passes topping off his impressive performance. Look for South Dakota to sling the ball around on Saturday, testing OU’s secondary.

Oklahoma Sooners (1-0)

After Sunday’s big win, Lincoln Riley and his team look to get better this weekend by simply executing their game plan. South Dakota doesn’t pose much of a threat for the Sooners.

Nonetheless, OU needs to keep improving and come out motivated, ready to play. In a post-game interview with ESPN’s Holly Rowe, quarterback Jalen Hurts wasn’t satisfied with his record-breaking performance and the way his team executed. With Hurts as a team leader, don’t expect a lack-luster effort come game-time.

And mostly, despite his crazy numbers, Hurts was right. The Sooners left points on the field. Hurts had a fumble. He missed a couple of passes to open receivers that would have kept a drive alive. And then there is the Sooner’s kicking game, which was just bad. Against an inferior opponent, Oklahoma needs to clean a lot of that up.

Defensively, defensive coordinator Alex Grinch and company showed Sooner Nation the potential his unit has. They ran to the football, played with passion, and made plays in the backfield. Nobody expected a perfect defensive performance against Houston, but the defense showed a change from last season’s woes. The effort is there. Executing consistently is Grinch’s hope going forward. Look for OU to rotate a lot of bodies in and out of the game similarily to the Houston game.

Keys to the Game For Oklahoma

Force Turnovers – Grinch’s defense brought the pressure against Houston, but didn’t force any turnovers. Grinch preaches getting the ball back, so he wasn’t satisfied with his unit’s turnover goose egg. Look for the Sooners to bring the heat and force quarterback Austin Simmons in to throwing potential interceptions.

Find a Kicker – The Sooners’ kicking game was a glaring weakness from Sunday’s game. Redshirt sophomore Calum Sutherland was responsible for the placekicking duties and struggled mightily. Sutherland went 0-2 in field goal attempts. He missed a 49-yarder on the Sooners’ second possession, and then he missed a 36-yarder as time expired in the first half. If Sutherland struggles this Saturday, don’t be surprised to see backup kicker Gabe Brkic get a shot.

No Injuries – Coach Riley and the Sooners hope to finish the game unscathed by a FCS team in more ways than one. It is important to get through the weekend without any significant injuries. Look for the starters, especially quarterback Jalen Hurts, to play at most three quarters on Saturday.

Game Prediction

Saturday will be a confidence booster for the players, and it will be the golden opportunity to get some young bucks game experience. The crimson and cream faithful will see new players that haven’t seen much time. I’m excited for a first look at talented true freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler, the highly touted five-star recruit.

South Dakota is a mediocre FCS team. 40 points is a significant opening spread, but I expect to see the Sooners’ cover winning by more than six touchdowns against the FCS foe. Everybody, exempting Coyote fans, leaves Owen Field pleased heading into next week’s road trip to Los Angeles to face UCLA.

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