The great American poet Robert Frost wrote that "the best way out is through."
Frost, who won four Pulitzers for poetry and often wrote about rural life in New England, has been quoted frequently in pieces all over the world. So it is here. His comments about determination finds grounding in the Central Plains. The history of Dakota territory was measured by the will and resiliency of its people. A lot of Dakota pioneers found that the best way out of difficult situations was pushing forward or "through."
Fast forward to the 21st century and the collegiate game of football at The University of South Dakota, where its Coyotes are starting to make noise. Already they have attained a 4-2 mark and the highest ranking ever in the FCS polls at 14th. It is a team that began the season facing its own shadow after a 2010 campaign that began with promise and finished with significant disappointment.
On Saturday, the Coyotes fought through and again answered their primary goal of winning by finishing.
Three of the Coyotes leading the way on Saturday were quarterback Dante Warren, wide receiver Will Powell and defensive lineman Tyler Starr. Each served as significant playmakers for the 18th-ranked Coyotes in a 24-19 win over defending champion Southern Utah on Dakota Day at the DakotaDome.
This team, led by these three players, and others,, found out that the "best way out is through."
While the Great West Conference rightly honored USD's Marcus Sims (career high 153 yards rushing) on offense and Adam Broders (17 tackles, sack and two tackles for loss) on defense as its players of the week, these three Coyotes played more than bit roles.
Warren is the Coyote's field general on offense. He played that out on Saturday when he completed 14-of-18 passes for 186 yards and a TD along with 70 yards rushing and two scores.
Warren's numbers were significant, but don't show the determined effort that the senior from Arlington Heights, Ill., exhibited from the opening bell until the final seconds ticked from the clock.
A week ago, he injured his hand and there was some worry in the Coyote camp that he wouldn't be able to hang onto the football. From the first snap, Powell played with fire in his belly. He scored the first two TDs by carrying the ball in the end zone after being knocked about by Southern Utah defenders. He simply refused to go down, breaking numerous tackles. On a 20-yard TD run, he was like a pinball, bouncing off defenders as he shifted gears more than once,ending up in the paydirt zone.
Coyote head football coach Ed Meierkort called his performance "courageous."
"He really took it too them. He played with great spirit and toughness," said Meierkort. And, if one player could carry out what Frost asserted, Warren was that guy. He found his way out by going through the Southern Utah defense time and time again.
Called by Meierkort as the "real Mayor of Sioux Falls," Will Powell had five catches for 117 yards against Southern Utah. The performance was typical of the determined wide receiver, who is a highlight reel in cleats. Anybody that has watched the former Sioux Falls O'Gorman graduate play has been left talking about some catch or play after the game ended (during as well).
He has played in the moment nearly his whole career, both in high school and college. In the opening drive of the Southern Utah game, Powell had a 45-yard catch that ranks as one of the best ever in the DakotaDome. ESPN ranked it #5 in its top 10 plays of the week in college football.
Powell has a treasure trove of great catches and plays. If you want memories, try Minnesota and North Dakota last year or his big catches in the win over then ranked #1 FCS Eastern Washington earlier this year. Guess what? There are more"in the moment" plays for USD's standout junior wide out..
Finally, Tyler Starr is a sophomore from Rock Rapids, Iowa, starting for the Coyotes for the first time this season. One of the most athletically unique players at USD, he had a big-time effort aagainst defending Great West Conference champion Southern Utah, when he had five tackles, including four tackles for loss and two sacks.
Through six games, Starr has accumulated 10 sacks (third nationally) and 14 tackles for loss (second nationally) and has literally wreaked havoc on opponents. He was a constant thorn in the side of Southern Utah and its all-conference quarterback Brad Sorenson. The Southern Utah coaching staff tried to make adjustments to counter Starr's ferocious pass rushing skills. But, clearly to no avail. While he had two sacks, he also had several pressures and the double teams he faced didn't keep him out of the backfield.
He forced Sorenson to step up in the pocket or hurry his throws on a regular basis. He and his mates on the front line created a pass rush early and later during the nitty gritty moments when games are decided.
During one stretch in the game, Starr was being double teamed but still made his way to the quarterback and as he was being held, he turned to the official who threw the flag. The Southern Utah offensive line was throwing up the flag trying to block this Starr, who was another example of find your way out by going through.
I think Warren, Powell and Starr exemplify what Frost meant in his quote. They know that this season is a challenge every week and that hard work and full effort is how successful teams mine their way through difficult times and find the way to win.
Winning has again found a home in Coyote Nation because of a football team's determination and an unrelenting effort to see things through.