Junior quarterback Dante Warren of South Dakota said he needed last week's game against Central Florida to get comfortable.
On Saturday against the Gophers, in his second career start, Warren looked as if he were in a cozy recliner with a TV remote and munchies at his side.
Warren completed 21-of-30 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions as the Coyotes shocked the Gophers 41-38 at TCF Bank Stadium. He also rushed 10 times for 102 yards, including 25- and 36-yard touchdowns in the last 16 minutes.
"This is a surreal feeling right now after the game," the 6-0, 196-pound Warren said. "You go into a game like this just hoping everything works out perfectly and it did for us.
"Receivers were catching the ball, just snagging them for me, and I just happened to put [the ball] in the right positions. The defense really came out and gave the offense confidence with all the stops they were getting in the beginning."
South Dakota coach Ed Meierkort (100-79 in 19 seasons, with seven years in Vermillion, S.D.) called the upset a career milestone. "More importantly," he said, "it is a University [of South Dakota] milestone. You can just see how giddy our fans are right now. It's ridiculous."
Last week, Central Florida routed the visiting Coyotes 38-7. Warren was unspectacular; he was 10-of-19 passing for 104 yards and had one carry for 4 yards.
"Playing against UCF, you get caught up to game speed, really," Warren said. "[Saturday] everything felt natural."
"We thought we would have a chance to throw the ball," Meierkort said. "We didn't know how successfully because of the pressure. But once we were able to keep Dante out of their grasp, that really helped a ton and allowed us to call a more free-spirited game."
With 7:30 to play and the Coyotes ahead 34-31, Warren made one of the game's biggest plays on fourth and 1 at the Gophers 36. After faking a handoff, he found an opening down the right sideline for what proved to be the winning touchdown.
"Everyone around me was ready to go, everyone had played, everyone was proven," said Warren, the Coyotes' backup quarterback the past two seasons. "I just needed to step up. I was the missing piece."
The Coyotes found him at St. Viator in Arlington Heights, a suburb of Chicago. No major college offered him a scholarship.
"We always say I can get Dante into trouble, he needs to get us out of it," Meierkort said. "That's the kind of quarterback this offense recruits, somebody who can ad-lib a little bit. It puts a lot of pressure on defenses.
"The thing I was most impressed in the last two games with Dante Warren is his poise under pressure in an environment that none of us have ever been in -- none of us except one coach, Jake Sprague, who played at Wisconsin. Everybody else came from smaller levels and worked their way up. So this is truly a Super Bowl for our kids."