GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – The Dixie State Red Storm opened the 2014 with an offensive explosion. They gained over 600 yards against one of last season’s top defensive teams in the nation. Unfortunately, DSU had its own problems on defense as the Colorado Mesa Mavericks beat the Storm 44-37 in overtime.
CMU scored on fourth and goal in the first half of the OT, then the Mavs intercepted DSU quarterback Hayden Gavett in the end zone to seal the win for Mesa.
Dixie State had led 37-34 with only 42 seconds to play after a go-ahead field goal by Alex Giordani from 25 yards out. But CMU drove 45 yards in seven plays and Ryan Sheehan kicked the overtime-forcing field goal from 40 yards out to tie the game.
Dixie State had five costly turnovers. Four turnovers came in the first half and the final one came on the last play in overtime. Special teams were not so special for DSU, either.
The trouble started early for the Red Storm on special teams. The Mavericks’ D.J. Hubbard took the opening kickoff 95 yards to paydirt to open up the 2014 season. And before you could do a double take the score was a 6-0 deficit for the Red Storm.
“Our special teams play hurt us,” DSU coach Scott Brumfield said. “The turnovers were costly as well.”
Gavett drove Dixie 52 yards before attempting a field goal. Alex Giordani’s field goal was blocked turning the ball back to Colorado Mesa. On the ensuing possession, Maverick quarterback Aric Kaiser found his running back Ricky Trinidad for a catch and 62-yard run down to the Dixie 10-yard line. The Dixie D held at that point however, forcing the Mavericks to settle for an Austin Pitchford 38-yard field goal. With 8:46 left in the first, Dixie trailed 9-0.
Gavett again moved the Red Storm offense, with a balanced attack. A 72-yard drive culminated in a 14-yard scamper for touchdown by Gavett. The QB hooked up earlier in the drive with wide receiver Brock Johnson to get to the red zone. Giordani’s PAT pulled the Red Storm to within two, 9-7 at the 6:31 mark of the first.
With the Mesa offense struggling in the second quarter, Maverick coach Russ Martin looked to ignite his offense, replacing Kaiser with freshman quarterback Andrew Cota. The result was worse as Cota threw an interception to Jake Witham. However Gavett, reciprocated throwing an interception on the first play of the possession to Jordan Price, CMU’s all-conference defensive back. CMU took over at its 47-yard line with 8:56 left in the first half.
Kaiser again returned and this time drove the CMU offense 53 yards for the offense’s first touchdown of the game. On a third and 8 at the 15, Kaiser was flushed from the pocket, broke out of a sack, and threw a ball that was tipped by two Red Storm defenders before wide receiver Daniel Rankin pulled it in at the back of the end zone. After the PAT, Dixie State trailed again by two scores, 16-7, with 4:48 to play in the first half.
On the ensuing possession, DSU coughed up the football with its third turnover of the game when Jamal Smith caught a Gavett pass, eluded two tackles and then lost the football on a hit from a third CMU defender. The CMU player returned the ball to the Dixie 19-yard line. Forty seconds later, Kaiser found running back Jerrion Dennis on a bubble screen to extend the Maverick lead to 23-7.
On the ensuing possession, the Dixie State offense shot itself in the foot again when running back Colton Peterson fumbled the football for the Red Storm’s fourth turnover of the game.
The Dixie D again held CMU on a three and out. The Dixie offense finally capitalized when Dalton Groskreutz caught a Gavett slant pass and raced 61 yards for his first collegiate touchdown. The two-point conversion failed and Dixie trailed 23-13 with just under one minute to play in the half.
“Groskreutz was not even a read on the play,” Gavett said. “I saw outside linebacker step up and knew that Dalt would be open for a big gain.”
The Red Storm offense kept its late first half momentum going at the start of the second half. Gavett directed the offense 75 yards in eight plays, ending with a Peterson 5-yard plunge at the 11:12 mark of the third quarter to pull to 23-20. The big play of the drive was a deep pass to Jamal Smith.
The defense continued its stellar play, again forcing a CMU punt. Gavett kept the offense in motion, driving 90 yards in 10 plays, again finding Groskreutz for his second touchdown of the game on a 7-yard strike. Dixie had its first lead of the game, 27-23, with 6:27 to play in the third.
The celebration was short-lived as CMU’s Jordan Price returned the kickoff to Dixie State’s 10-yard line. Again the Dixie defense came through, limiting the Mavericks to a 25-yard field goal and maintaining the lead 27-26 at the 4:36 mark in the third.
On the ensuing possession, the Dixie State offense once again sustained a long drive to end the third quarter. The Red Storm drove 73 yards in 12 plays. Myles Burton finished the drive with a 5-yard run. Dixie extended its lead to 34-26.
The Mavericks knotted the score on their next possession when Kaiser found Daniel Perse with a 12-yard touchdown reception. Kaiser then found Stephen Lindquist for the two-point conversion to make it 34-34 with 10:53 left in the game.
On the next possession the Red Storm was forced to punt, but pinned the Mavericks deep. CMU started with its worst field position of the game at the 8-yard line. The Mavericks were able to drive the ball down to the DSU 10-yard line before attempting another field goal. The field goal sailed right, however and Dixie got possession of the ball with just over five minutes remaining in the game.
Four Burton runs moved the ball to the Maverick 40. On third and 2 at the 32-yard line, Gavett was sacked by the Mavericks Marcus Cross. Facing a fourth and 9 at the 39-yard line, with 1:38 to play, Gavett threw an incomplete pass to Johnson. However the Mavericks were called for targeting the head and Dixie got renewed life. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was added and Dixie had a first and 10 at the 12-yard line with 1:32 to play. On fourth and 6, Giordani kicked a successful 25-yard field goal with 42 seconds to play. Dixie led once again, 37-34.
The Mavericks took the kickoff at their 33-yard line. They drove down to the Dixie 22-yard line with four seconds remaining. Maverick kicker Ryan Sheehan tied the game with a 40-yard field goal, taking the game into overtime.
CMU started with the ball in overtime. On fourth down at the 1-yard line, Jerrion Dennis plunged in for the touchdown. With a successful PAT, the score was 44-37. Gavett was intercepted by Dustin Rivas on a third and 11 to end Dixie State’s hopes.
“I thought we played much better in the second half,” Brumfield said. “We were able to sustain longer drives and finish them off. Gavett played a great game.”
Dixie outgained CMU 640 to 417. Individually, Gavett completed 25 of 44 passes for 339 yards, two interceptions and two touchdowns. He also ran for 119 yards and another touchdown.
Colton Peterson and Burton also cleared 100 yards rushing with 114 and 106 yards, respectively. Gavett found 11 different receivers. Nate Stephens had six receptions for 81 yards. Groskreutz had two receptions for 68 yards. Smith had three receptions for 53 yards. Johnson caught four passes for 34 yards.
The Red Storm will stay on the road next week, traveling to Ellensburg, Wash., to take on GNAC foe Central Washington University.
Stats: CMU 44, DSU 37 (OT)
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