Today’s matchup: Dixie State travels to Central Washington

GAME PREVIEW CAPSULE
Dixie State University (1-2) at Central Washington University (1-2), 1 p.m. PDT, at Tomlinson Stadium in Ellensburg, Wash.
Previous Meeting: Central Washington beats Dixie State 34-28 at home (Nov. 14, 2015. DeJon Coleman scored three touchdowns and DSU defense force five turnovers but cannot stop late Wildcat rally.
Overall Series Record: CWU leads series 14-2
Broadcast: ESPN SportsRadio 97.7 FM

TRAILBLAZERS
blazerDHead coach: Shay McClure (1st year, 1-2, 1-2 overall)
Offense: Pro Set, Multiple
Offensive Average: 20.7
Defense: Pro 4-3
Defensive Average: 21.7
Last Game: Lost to Black Hills State last week 20-14
Players to watch: Right now the only unit that has not faced significant injury is is the running backs. DeJon Coleman had a good game last week and did well against CWU last year. Orlando Wallace continues to impress. DeJuan Dantzler went down last week and will not be available at receiver today. Aubrey Reed is still a dangerous threat. Three of the starting offensive lineman went down last week. The running game was clearly affected. Defensively, the ‘Blazers can’t play much better. They only gave up one score last week with the other two coming on turnovers. Colton Olson leads the team in tackles. Linebackers Peter Brown and Shiloh Pritchard have played impressively. Darius Mathews leads the team in sacks.

WILDCATS
cwuHead Coach: Ian Shoemaker (3rd year at CSU 1-2, 13-11 overall)
Offense: Multiple Spread
Offensive Average: 28.0
Defense: Nickel
Defensive Average: 30.0
Last Game: Lost to Azusa Pacific 27-17 last week
Players to watch: CWU averages 406.3 yards per game on offense (151 rush, 255 pass), led by senior quarterback Justin Lane, who ranks second in the GNAC in passing with 255.0 yards per game. Senior receiver Jesse Zalk leads the GNAC in receiving with 17 catches for 249 yards (83.0 per game). Defensively, the Wildcats allow 405.3 yards per game (145 rush, 260 pass). Junior defensive back Jackson Huerta is tied for second in the GNAC with 34 tackles. Junior linebacker Kevin Haynes is close behind with 31 tackles.

COACH MCCLURE’S PERSPECTIVE
“We suffered several setbacks last week with injuries. Losing three-fifths of our starting offensive line played a significant role in our lack of a running game. Our defense played well, but they need to create more turnovers and give the ball to our offense in good field position. Central Washington is 1-2 this year, but one of their losses was to Division I Portland State and the other was to perennial GNAC contender Azusa Pacific. They are better than their record indicates. They have talent at the skill positions. We will have to play at a high level to come out of there with a win.”

GAME OUTLOOK
This is Dixie State’s sole non-conference game this year. But CWU is a familiar foe. Dixie State has played them at least once and many times twice as a member of the GNAC. Dixie State could very easily be 3-0, having lost their last two games by six points or less. Both times Dixie State had the ball with a chance to put the go-ahead score on the board to end the game. This game was another preseason win I had pegged for the “Blazers but with so many injuries up front, it is hard to pick them this week.

STGNEWS PREDICTION: Central Washington 21, Dixie State 14

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