VERMILLION — Tim Tebow made the jump pass famous at Florida, but Jasper Sanders is now a perfect 1-for-1 on the trick play.
Take the hand-off, run hard to the line, stop, jump up in the air and throw the ball over the middle to a teammate, hope for something to happen.
Mission accomplished for Sanders, a senior running back for the University of South Dakota football team, in Saturday’s annual spring game in the DakotaDome.
The play, implemented a day earlier by offensive coordinator Wes Beschorner, resulted in an 18-yard touchdown to tight end Kayl Barkley — with a push from the line over the final five yards.
“We wanted a name for it, but we couldn’t think of one,” Sanders said. “I was excited, because I didn’t think he’d get in.”
Barkley, a sophomore, did to cap off USD’s second series, both of which resulted in touchdowns for the offense on a day that resulted in a 28-28 tie.
“It was a mess the first time he tried it,” head coach Joe Glenn said, chuckling. “Jasper was a high school quarterback, so I think he was lobbying.”
From there, however, there weren’t many offensive highlights for the Coyotes, coming off a 1-10 record a year ago.
The defense made seven stops on third down, recorded six sacks, intercepted one pass and recovered one fumble — all resulting in points.
Aside from a 75-yard drive to start the game, the defense settled down and began to frustrate its offensive teammates.
“That’s huge, especially on third down,” said senior linebacker Tyler Starr, who led with six tackles and two sacks. “Any time you have a chance to get off the field, it’s got to happen.”
In an hour-long game broken down into three quarters, the offense jumped early 19-11 after six series. The defense rallied to tie the game at 22 on a sack by Tyler Richardson (two points) and a third down stop (one point).
Devin Taverna intercepted a pass after a halftime break and a sack by Starr made it 28-22 in favor of the defense. Junior quarterback Josh Vander Maten closed the game with a 5-yard touchdown run — his second of the day.
“It was very competitive, even up a notch from our scrimmages,” said Vander Maten, who finished 8-of-12 passing for 112 yards. “It was really good to see.”
Another of the defensive standouts was junior defensive back Steve Tellefsen. He finished three tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery in the end zone.
“The number one goal was to stop the offense, and we did that,” Tellefsen said.
Of course, frustrating your offensive teammates was extra special, he said.
“It’s always nice to get those offensive guys mad,” Tellefsen said. “We’re always talking, every day. Those are the only people we see, so it was fun.”
The final quarter and a half weren’t so much fun for the offense. Frequently a problem last year, three pre-snap penalties — two false starts and a holding — halted any momentum. There was one series in particular where USD went consecutive plays of false start, interception, delay of game.
“Our discipline last year was horrible. And we’ve gone all spring and two scrimmages without a pre-snap penalty and today we had three of them,” Glenn said. “That can’t happen.
“Those are little things we need to work on.”
An area that does appear to be an improvement for the offense is at running back. Sanders led with 41 yards, followed by senior Earv Archambeau (an Avon native) with 40, redshirt freshman Trevor Bouma with 20 and redshirt freshman Jordan Roberts with 19.
Archambeau, whom Glenn calls a “hider” because of his small stature at 5-foot-10, averaged 10 yards per carry, highlighted by a 30-yarder in the final series.
“It was good. It’s been a while,” Archambeau said. “I’ve been waiting in line for a while for that to happen.”
Now that spring practice is behind them, the Coyotes will have a while to wait to resume to the field — Aug. 4. USD, which opens its season Aug. 31 at home against UC Davis, is making steps toward improvement, Archambeau said.
“We worked extremely hard this off-season to make ourselves better, and I think it’s paying off,” he said.
Extra additions will also help that goal. Glenn said the defense needs to build depth — only 19 guys played Saturday — and that the addition of 34 newcomers in the fall will provide such competition at certain spots, like linebacker and kicker/punter.
“The goods won the game,” Glenn said. “The first team offense and first team defense, and that’s the way it should be.”
You can follow Jeremy Hoeck on Twitter at twitter.com/jhoeck