SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KWSN) – Junior running back Nephi Garcia rushed for 159 yards and three scores to lead USF to a 27-10 victory over Augustana College on Saturday night at Bob Young Field.
With the victory, the Cougars (5-3, 3-1 NSIC South) stay in the hunt for the NSIC South Division title. The win is also USF’s second straight over the archrival Vikings (3-5, 1-3) and allows the Cougars to maintain possession of the “Key to the City” traveling trophy.
The Cougars made a statement early, scoring on their first two drives. Junior Bradley Hatfield drilled a 47-yard field goal to cap a 13-play, 54-yard drive to begin the game, giving USF a 3-0 lead at the 11:04 mark of the first quarter.
Augustana’s offense went nowhere fast on their opening series and the Vikings booted the ball back to USF after gaining just 16 yards on four snaps.
The Cougars’ second possession looked like it might set a tone when they marched down to the Vikings’ five-yard line, but the drive stalled when Hanna was stopped behind the line of scrimmage. USF was forced to settle for three and two plays later, Hatfield’s 22-yard chip sailed just inside the left uprights to give USF the 6-0 advantage.
The Cougars dominated the first quarter defensively, allowing just 65 yards of offense. More than half of those yards came on a 38-yard burst by CJ Ham that gave the Vikings first down at the USF 29-yard line, but Augie wasted the field position. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty pushed the Vikings back to the USF-44 and they came away empty-handed when Ben Albrecht’s 51-yard field goal attempt was well short and left.
The Cougars looked to extend their lead halfway through the second quarter after a successful fourth down conversion gave them 1st and 10 at the Viking 24-yard line. USF moved the chains again with Garcia’s seven-yard reception but three plays later Hanna was flagged for intentional grounding six plays later and the Cougars were forced to punt it away.
After the teams traded punts, the Vikings thought they found the end zone. However, Noah Huisman’s catch was ruled out of bounds and the Viking sophomore was called for offensive pass interference to add insult to injury.
The second half ended with the Cougars’ clinging to the 6-0 lead.
USF outgained the Vikings 205-166 in the first half while Wes Smith hauled in a 26-yard reception.
Jonathan Talbot’s sack led to a three-and-out on the Vikings’ first series of the second half. Augustana would take advantage of the game’s first turnover to cut the Cougars’ lead in half. Brandon Mohr intercepted Hanna at the Augie 47-yard line and the Vikings settled for a 28-yard field goal to cut the Cougars’ lead to 6-3 with 6:23 remaining in the third quarter.
The Cougars missed a 40-yard field goal attempt on the ensuing drive and after the USF defense forced another punt, Wes Smith used his legs to set up the game’s first touchdown, breaking off a 42-yard kick return that put the ball at the Augie 45-yard line. Fine blocking by Erik Albeck allowed Garcia to spring free, whofinished off the three-play, 45-yard drive with a 36-yard touchdown run with 44 seconds left in the quarter.
The Cougar defense delivered another three-and-out on the Vikings’ next series. A muffed punt that was recovered by John Tidwell led to the Cougars’ next score, a one-yard touchdown run by Garcia that made it 20-3 in favor of the Cougars.
Augustana tried on onside kick after Dajon Newell’s 19-yard touchdown run trimmed the Cougars’ lead to 20-10 but Garcia collected the ball at the USF 42-yard line.
Hanna led the Cougars on a nine-play, 58-yard drive that ended with a three-yard Garcia touchdown rush to create the final 27-10 margin.
Hanna finished 21-for-37 for 199 yards and one interception. Austin Vanhove had six catches for 40 yards while Wes Smith had five catches for 64 yards.
It is Garcia’s seventh straight game with at least 100 rushing yards. The Cougars finished with 423 yards of offense but were hit with eight penalties for a total of 63 yards.
USF travels to Upper Iowa next weekend.
Courtesy: University of Sioux Falls