Long road trip, slow start cost Dixie State in loss to Black Hills

Photo courtesy DSU Athletics

SPEARFISH, S.D. — The Dixie State football team couldn’t overcome a stagnant first half on Saturday in Spearfish, S.D., falling 20-14 to Black Hills State.

blazerDblack_hills_state_university_sealThe Trailblazers (1-2, 1-2 RMAC) managed just 38 yards of total offense in the first half (49 pass, -11 rush) and were forced to punt on each of their six drives in the opening two quarters.

Black Hills State turned 238 yards of total offense into a 13-0 lead heading to the halftime break. The Yellow Jackets looked to add to the lead just before halftime, but DSU blocked a BHSU field goal attempt from 42 yards just before the break.

The Trailblazer defense set the tone in the second half, forcing a BHSU three-and-out to start the half. The offense looked to follow suit as redshirt freshman running back Clifford Simms turned five carries into 22 yards and two first downs to move the Trailblazers into Yellow Jacket territory. Freshman quarterback Josh Thompson then found junior receiver Zach Smith for a 23-yard pass to the BHSU 11-yard line. But the drive stalled and a 24-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left.

Unfazed, the Dixie State defense forced another BHSU punt to regain possession. And, like the previous drive, the offense began to move the ball. Thompson found Aubrey Reed for 13 yards, followed by a 5-yard pass to Smith. The drive continued after a BHSU pass interference penalty, but was abruptly halted when a DSU fumble on the next play was returned 48 yards for a Yellow Jacket touchdown and a 20-0 BHSU lead.

Photo courtesy BHSU Athletics
Photo courtesy BHSU Athletics

Dixie State responded with its first scoring drive as Thompson completed a 31-yard pass to Reed and a 41-yard strike to Smith to set up a 3-yard touchdown run by the freshman quarterback, capping a 6-play, 87-yard drive. With 2:50 remaining in the third quarter, DSU had trimmed the lead to 20-7.

The Trailblazers pulled to within a touchdown in the fourth quarter, marching 94 yards in 10 plays to cut the lead to 20-14 after senior running back DeJon Coleman took a screen pass from Thompson 23 yards for the score. Coleman also caught passes of 13 and 20 yards on the drive, while Smith hauled in a 29-yard pass while falling backwards to the ground.

The Dixie State defense did its part to set up a dramatic finish, forcing a BHSU punt to get the ball back with 2:55 on the clock with two timeouts.

The Trailblazers moved quickly into BHSU territory behind a 10-yard run by Thompson, followed by a pass interference penalty. Two plays later, Thompson threw what looked like his third interception of the game, but the play was negated by a defensive holding penalty prior to the interception. DSU was in business with a first down at the BHSU 29-yard line with two timeouts left.

But the Yellow Jacket defense stiffened, forcing a fourth-down situation. DSU called timeout to get the right play call, but Thompson’s pass, intended for junior receiver Justin Martin was batted away, sealing the BHSU victory.

Dixie State finished the game with 297 yards of total offense (253 pass, 44 rush), being held to less than 50 yards rushing for the first time since Nov. 15, 2014, in a loss at Humboldt State. Thompson completed 18 of 33 passes for 253 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions, while adding another touchdown on the ground. Coleman finished the game with seven catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.

The Trailblazers conceded 384 yards of offense, but allowed just one offensive touchdown in the game. Junior safety Colton Olson led the way with a game-high 12 tackles (1.5 for loss), while sophomore linebacker Tane Tuifua added 10 tackles.

Dixie State now heads to Ellensburg, Wash., for a matchup with former GNAC foe Central Washington next Saturday at 2 p.m. Mountain Time.

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