ST. GEORGE –Dixie State played Western Oregon twice in 2011. It wasn’t pretty, either, as the Wolves outscored the Red Storm 96-28 in the two WOU victories.
What a difference a year makes. Led by the hard-running A.J. Johnson, DSC knocked off Western Oregon 24-10 Saturday night at Hansen Stadium.
Johnson, a junior from Chino Hills, Calif., rushed for 119 yards on 19 carries and backup quarterback Kaleo Nawahine tossed a game-clinching touchdown pass late in the third quarter to Zach Fox.
But the real star of the night was the Dixie State defense. DSC had lost four straight to Western Oregon and had given up an average of 44.8 points a game in those four losses. But on this night, the Red Storm would prove so much more stingy.
Led by linebackers Tana Woodard and Jake Duncan and a solid secondary that picked off three Wolves passes, DSC pitched a shutout in the second half and allowed WOU just 239 total yards and 13 first downs in the game. The Wolves only got into the Dixie State red zone once the entire second half and that drive was stymied at the 13-yard line midway through the fourth quarter.
The game was tied at halftime at 10-10. After an exchange of punts, Dixie State took its first lead of the second half halfway through the third quarter on a 22-yard run by quarterback Griff Robles. The scramble score came on a first down and capped an 11-play, 77-yard drive. That made it 17-10 with 8:35 left in the third.
On the very next play from scrimmage, following the DSC kickoff, WOU’s Kenneth Haynes was nailed by Manu Tanavasi and coughed up the football. Dixie State recovered at the WOU 32-yard line.
The Red Storm grabbed a two-score lead moments when Nawahine, in for a dinged up Robles, found Fox from 23 yards out on a big third-and-18 conversion. That made it 24-10 with 4:54 left in the third quarter and would be all the cushion a rejuvenated Dixie State defense would need.
Western Oregon’s only scoring threat in the second half came in the fourth quarter after a Nawahine interception set the Wolves up at the DSC 42- yard line. A pass completion and a pass interference penalty set WOU up with a first down at the DSC 13-yard line. But four straight incompletions by Wolves QB Trey Shimabukuro ended the threat. Dixie State killed the clock with two late drive and an interception to clinch the game.
Robles had a rough day passing and was just 11-of-33 for 110 yards. But the Utah transfer did rush for 42 yards and the aforementioned TD. Robles, a junior from Spanish Fork, connected with Conor Sklarsky on a 16-yard TD in the first half.
The Red Storm, 1-1, were led in receiving by Andre Aron, who had five catches for 66 yards. Dixie’s D forced three punts and three turnovers in the second half.
DSC plays at Azusa Pacific next Saturday at 7 p.m. The 0-2 Wolves are home to face Central Washington.
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