ST. GEORGE – After just having matched the visiting South Dakota School of Mines’ touchdown in overtime, Dixie freshman kicker Alex Giordani lined up to tie the score to take the game into a second overtime. “We thought about going for two,” said Dixie head coach Scott Brumfield. “But we were at home and I had confidence our defense could stop them in a second overtime.” The second overtime would never come as Giordani’s attempt was barely wide left, dropping a 41-40 heartbreaker. “The snap was good, “ said holder and backup quarterback Brody Garr. “I was able to get the ball placed. Alex (Giordani) just missed it, which is very uncharacteristic for him.”
Giordani had two earlier field goals from 24 and 25 yards out. He also had kicked an earlier PAT from 40 yards out after two holding penalties. “I have total confidence in Giordani,” said Brumfield. “He has kicked well all season, especially in pressure situations. He kept us in this game. One got away from him.”
The drama followed the tale of two halves. In the first half, Dixie was outplayed on both sides of the ball. An interception by Dixie State safety Aeryus Holloway led to Giordani’s first field goal. Then SDSM ran off 20 straight points. The first touchdown came on a 59-yard pass from quarterback Trenton McKinney to wideout Rashad Ridley. That was followed by a pair of two-yard touchdown runs by running back Kevin Thompson.
All three touchdowns came on long, sustained drives by the Hard Rocker offense.
“Defensively we just were not playing with energy,” said DSU linebacker Robert Metz. “We were making good reads, but we were allowing too much on first downs. We brought more energy in the second half and it showed with negative or short-distance yardage on their first downs.”
The Red Storm offense finally found the end zone in the second quarter. Quarterback Ben Longshore capped an 11-play, 68-yard drive with a 5-yard slant pass to Conor Sklarsky. With 6:14 left, Dixie pulled to within 20-10.
Another long drive by South Dakota put them back up 17 as Thompson got his third touchdown of the night, this one from 4-yards out. The Hard Rockers had outgained Dixie 336-173 yards in the first half.
“We made some minor adjustments at halftime,” said DSU wide receiver Nate Stephens. “But it was really just execution on offense. Once you get that little spark of momentum you can ride that wave for a while. That happened for us in the second half.”
The Red Storm opened the second half with 24 consecutive points. In the third quarter Longshore found Stephens on Dixie State’s first possession with a 44-yard pass less than two minutes into the second half.
On the Storm’s next scoring drive, Longshore threw the ball right into the hands of SDSM cornerback Josh Thomas. Thomas could not hold on and juggled the ball forward into the hands of Sklarsky, who then outran the defender for a 48-yard touchdown reception.
Sklarsky wasn’t finished. He got his third touchdown of the night three minutes later, this one from 20 yards out. Going into the fourth quarter, Dixie State had claimed the lead, 31-27.
The fourth quarter would highlight Dixie’s defense as the Red Storm were able to frustrate the Hard Rockers with good pursuit on the ball carriers and excellent pass coverage. SDSM’s offense twice turned the ball over on downs.
Giordani tacked on his second field goal with 2:30 left in the game to put the Red Storm up seven points. On SDSM’s next possession, McKinney beautifully directed the team down the field in its hurry-up offense. McKinney found wide receiver Marcus Sanchez from 10 yards out to pull within 34-33. SDSM coach Stacy Collins gambled and went for the two-point conversion. The Hard Rockers were successful but were called for a penalty, forcing them to settle for a kick to get into overtime.
On SDSM’s first play from overtime, Sanchez was the beneficiary of a double-pass play. McKinney hit running back Daniel Ziegler on a backwards swing pass. Ziegler tucked the ball sprinted right then pulled up and hit a wide open Sanchez in the end zone. The PAT put the Hard Rockers up 41-34.
The Dixie offense took the field and had no trouble picking up yardage, culminating the five-play drive with Myles Burton going 3 yards untouched off tackle, setting up Giordani’s fateful attempt.
Dixie ended with 492 yards of offense. Longshore completed 34 of 51 passes for 427 yards. Stephens had 200 yards receiving on 13 receptions. Sklarsky had five catches for 96 yards. Aubrey Reed and Antonio Morton had four receptions apiece for 46 and 33 yards respectively.
Defensively Trevor Oakley led the Storm with 14 tackles, eight unassisted. Metz followed up last week’s conference player of the week performance with 12 tackles.
The loss drops Dixie to 1-7 (0-4 GNAC). The Red Storm has its last home game of the season next week against Central Washington. Game time is 6 p.m.
Stats: SDSM 41, DSU 40
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