VERMILLION, S.D. (KWSN) — Ellis Henderson’s 98-yard kickoff return with 1:36 to go in the fourth quarter capped a three-touchdown day for the sophomore wide receiver as No. 12 Montana survived South Dakota 31-27 Saturday at the DakotaDome.
Henderson’s dagger came moments after South Dakota kicker Miles Bergner booted a 38-yard field goal that helped the Coyotes break a 24-24 tie. Henderson fielded Bergner’s kick in the corner, sprinted straight ahead and went untouched down the right sideline and into the end zone. It was the first return score for the Grizzlies (8-2) this season.
South Dakota (4-6) reached Montana’s 31 in the final seconds, but Kevin Earl’s throw to the end zone on 4th-and-7 was batted down.
It is the second week in a row that the Coyotes had one of the nation’s premier programs on the ropes.
South Dakota led by 11 points in the first half and had a 24-17 lead and the ball with seven minutes remaining. The Coyote defense intercepted Jordan Johnson three times, returned one for a score and limited the Griz to 53 yards rushing. Johnson had been intercepted once in more than 250 throws this season and Montana came in averaging 192 yards rushing per game.
In addition to the kickoff return, Henderson caught four passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns. He caught a 6-yard touchdown pass near the end of the first quarter that cut South Dakota’s lead to 14-10. He got behind the defense for a 71-yard touchdown catch at the start of the second quarter that put the Griz on top 17-14.
South Dakota’s 24-17 halftime lead stuck until midway through the fourth quarter. The Coyotes had a first down on their own 30 with seven minutes to go when running back Trevor Bouma was stripped by Jordan Tripp and saw the ball go straight into the hands of free safety Matt Hermanson who ran straight ahead for 35 yards and the game-tying score.
Earl and the Coyotes responded with a nine-play, 59-yard drive that culminated with Bergner’s field goal. Bergner also knocked in a 21-yarder as time expired in the first half.
Earl was 27 of 45 for 235 yards and a 2-yard touchdown pass to Josh Vander Maten. He handed off 25 times to Bouma, who had a game-high 147 yards that included a 38-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter that gave USD a 14-3 lead.
Johnson was 17 of 33 for 337 yards for Montana. His second throw of the game went straight to USD safety Aaron Swift, who scampered 60 yards on the return for a score and a 7-0 lead. Johnson was also sacked four times. USD senior linebacker Tyler Starr earned his 27th collegiate sack, which ties the program record held by A.J. Schable.
Montana rushed for 315 yards in a 35-24 season-opening win against USD a year ago. The Griz averaged 2.2 yards per carry in this one. Jordan Canada ran 13 times for 40 yards to lead UM.
South Dakota returns to Missouri Valley Football Conference play Saturday (Nov. 16) and will host rival South Dakota State at 1 p.m. inside the DakotaDome.
Courtesy: University of South Dakota