ST. GEORGE – Dixie State is getting better. Unfortunately, the end result isn’t quite showing it as the Red Storm fell to Azusa Pacific 42-23 Saturday night at Hansen Stadium.
The Red Storm football team stayed with the visiting APU Cougars for most of three quarters, taking a 23-21 lead on an Alex Giordani 42-yard field goal on their first possession of the second half. APU, the preseason conference favorite, was able to stall DSU on its final possessions of the half and pull away with a 42-23 victory.
“We lost the game, but we finally executed well against a very good team,” said Dixie State head coach Scott Brumfield. “We have lost seven starters for the season over the last two weeks to injury. We have had to revamp due to personnel changes, adjusting and adapting our play calling with the new personnel.”
Ben Longshore started at quarterback for the Red Storm. However, he platooned throughout the game with previous starter Hayden Gavett. “We mixed things up,” said Brumfield. “Longshore is more of a traditional dropback passer and Gavett has the speed to run our option plays.”
The strategy worked early as Dixie was able to match the high-powered APU offensive attack score for score.
The Cougars scored first, taking the opening dive of the game down the field. They marched 75 yards in 10 plays. All-American running back Terrell Watson scored on a 2-yard plunge to give APU a 7-0 lead.
The Red Storm answered with an 80-yard drive. Longshore found tight end Dalton Groskreutz on a 13-yard throw to the right corner of the end zone. Groskreutz bobbled the catch but gained control just before he was knocked out of bounds.
APU would regain the lead with quarterback Chad Jeffries faking the handoff to Watson then sweeping around the right side for a 14-7 lead just before the end of the first quarter. DSU responded with a second touchdown reception from Groskreutz.
“We had mirrored pass routes,” said Longshore. “I looked left initially and the receivers got tangled. I had to scramble to the right and they broke off coverage on Dalton (Groskreutz) and he was all alone.” The touchdown pass gave the Snow Canyon alum his second game of the year with two touchdown receptions.
Jeffries would get his second touchdown of the game on another 7-yard run with 7:58 to play in the second quarter. After APU held Dixie on its next possession, the Red Storm forced the only turnover of the game when Jacob Witham got his third interception of the year, setting the Dixie State offense up at the Cougar 47-yard line. Nine plays later, Hayden Gavett ran it in from six yards out. APU blocked Giordani’s PAT, but Dixie went in at halftime down 21-20.
After DSU’s field goal, Watson got his second touchdown with 4:28 to go in the third to put the Cougars up 28-23. APU finally capitalized on a Dixie punt to go up two scores when Adams scored with 8:45 left in the game. Cougar running back Ryan Adams broke free for a 27-yard touchdown up the middle to give APU a 35-23 advantage.
The Cougars would take advantage of great field position after the Red Storm was forced to take chances to get back in the game. Watson got his third touchdown on a 17-yard run to close out the scoring with 3:43 to play.
Longshore completed 23 of 42 for 180 yards and two touchdowns. His counterpart, Jeffries, completed 9 of 15 passes for 136 yards and an interception.
Watson delivered on his hype with 187 yards on 30 carries. Myles Burton had 72 yards on 10 carries. Gavett carried the ball eight times for 54 yards.
Nate Stephens led all receivers with seven receptions. Antonio Morton and Brock Johnson both had five receptions. Groskreutz led the team with 56 yards on four receptions.
The Red Storm falls to 0-4 and will begin conference play this coming week against Simon Fraser University Oct. 4 at Hansen Stadium. Game time is slotted for 6 p.m.
Stats: APU 42, DSU 23
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