#16 South Dakota earns postseason berth with first ever home FCS playoff game

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VERMILLION, SOUTH DAKOTA – South Dakota football got another first Saturday when the Coyotes earned a home game against Southern Illinois in the first round of the FCS playoffs. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. Saturday inside the DakotaDome.
 
It is the program’s second FCS playoff appearance and sixth NCAA playoff appearance overall. The Coyotes first competed in the FCS playoffs in 2017 and beat Nicholls in Louisiana in round one before falling to Sam Houston State in Texas in round two.
 
The DakotaDome has seen three NCAA Division II playoff games, but none since December of 1986 when USD topped Troy State 42-28. Saturday will mark South Dakota’s first home FCS playoff game.
 
Nielson is taking his 12th team to the NCAA playoffs in 29 seasons as a head coach. He won national championships with Minnesota Duluth in 2008 and 2010. This is his third time leading a team to the FCS playoffs. He first appeared with Western Illinois in 2015 where he also advanced to the second round.
 
The Missouri Valley Football Conference has a record six teams in the 24-team field. The Valley earned five of the 13 available at-large bids. The South Dakota-Southern Illinois matchup was possible because the two teams did not meet during the regular season. It will be the first meeting between the two programs since 2019.
 
Like South Dakota, Southern Illinois enters with a 7-4 overall record and a 5-3 finish in Valley play. The Salukis started 6-0 against FCS opponents, but enter the playoffs having lost three of their last four including a 35-18 setback at home Saturday. Southern Illinois is in the playoffs for the second time in 2021. They beat Weber State last April in the first round before losing to South Dakota State in the quarterfinals.
 
The winner of Saturday’s game will take on North Dakota State, the No. 2 overall seed, at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 4 inside the Fargodome in North Dakota. The Coyotes just lost to the Bison 52-24 Saturday in Fargo. Southern Illinois and North Dakota State did not meet this season, but Southern Illinois beat the Bison 38-14 in Carbondale, Illinois, back in February during the spring season.

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