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Eastern preparing for some rough play against South Dakota

Beau Baldwin expects the University of South Dakota to be up front about everything this afternoon when the Coyotes square off against his No. 1-ranked and defending NCAA Division I football champion Eastern Washington Eagles.

Kickoff is set for 2 in USD’s 10,000-seat DakotaDome in Vermillion, S.D., and Eastern’s head coach has some genuine concerns about the experience, size and toughness of the Coyotes’ offensive and defensive lines.

“They’re very physical up front on both sides of the football,” Baldwin said of USD, which is coming off a 37-20 road loss to Air Force in last Saturday’s season opener. “They have almost everyone back up there, they play extremely hard and tough, and they’re big.

“Their game plan, I’m sure, is going to be to try to out-physical you.”

The Coyotes have a mobile and battle-tested quarterback in senior Dante Warren, who was a second-team All-Great West Conference pick as a junior, throwing for 2,137 yards and 18 touchdowns, while also averaging more than 35 rushing yards per game.

“He scrambles around and makes plays with his feet,” Baldwin said of Warren, who completed 15 of 26 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns – but also threw three interceptions – in the loss to Air Force. “But they’re still more of a traditional run-first, power-type of Midwest team.

“We’ve seen that before with North Dakota State, and it presents a serious challenge, physically.”

The Eagles, who saw their 11-game winning streak snapped by last weekend’s 30-27 season-opening road loss to Washington, slipped past NDSU 38-31 in overtime in the quarterfinals of the 2010 FCS playoffs in Cheney last December and came out of the game with several players hurting.

South Dakota, which finished 4-7 overall and 1-3 in the GWC last fall, will take the same balanced and straight-forward offensive approach as the Bison, with Warren operating behind a veteran interior line that averages more than 300 pounds per man.

The best of the bunch is Tom Compton, a 6-foot-6, 314-pound senior and four-year starter, who is considered by many to be an NFL prospect.

And the Coyotes, with 19 returning starters off last year’s team that upset Minnesota 41-38 in Minneapolis, can get physical on defense, as well, as evidenced by the impressive numbers posted against Air Force by Tyler Starr.

Starr, a 6-5, 236-pound sophomore end, has six solo tackles, including a sack, while also recovering a fumble, forcing three others and breaking up a pass.

“I wouldn’t say they are super complicated in what they do,” Baldwin said of USD’s offensive and defensive schemes, “but that’s typical of a blue-collar team like them. They just do what they do really well, and it’s going to take everything to go in there and get a win.”

When asked if he might test his own running game a little more than he did against UW, Baldwin replied, “I don’t plan on throwing 69 passes again, but then, I didn’t plan on throwing that many against the Huskies going into that game.

“We’ll go in with a game plan and make adjustments as they become necessary.”


South Dakota is 34-5 in games they have played in the DakotaDome under eighth-year head coach Ed Meierkort. … In last weekend’s loss to Air Force, the Coyotes gave up an 80-yard touchdown run on the first play of the game and trailed 37-7 before scoring two late touchdowns. … Today’s game marks the first time USD and Eastern have faced each other in football. … This will be the second of three consecutive road games the Eagles will play before getting on the red turf at Roos Field on Sept. 24 against Big Sky Conference rival Montana State. … Eastern opens league play next Saturday against Montana in Missoula.