ST. GEORGE – Blake Barney made his first appearance in a Trailblazer uniform this season. The Dixie High alum threw for 101 yards and rushed for 75 more to help the Trailblazers get their second win of the season, beating Western State Colorado University, 28-20.
“Blake (Barney) is a playmaker,” said DSU head coach Shay McClure. “He made a lot of mistakes today. But it was his first game back. It was his first week of practice. He will clean up his mistakes and we are going to get better and better.”
The Dixie State defense held Western State to less than 200 yards rushing. Though not considered a feat by most defenses, when you take into consideration that the Mountaineers lead the RMAC with 298 yards per game behind leading rusher Austin Ekeler (208 ypg), it is significant.
“Our defense played great the entire game,” said Dixie State head coach Shay McClure. “Running the ball is their bread and butter and we forced them to give up on it earlier than they wanted.”
The game started with a scoreless first quarter as both defenses were able to force punts. On DSU’s final possession of the first quarter the Blazers took over at Western’s 45-yard line. Four plays later DeJon Coleman ran 33 yards up the middle for the score.
“It was like the Red Sea parted,” said Coleman. “It was an option play and I was hoping that Blake (Barney) would not pull it back. My O-line bulldozed a wide path. The only defender that got close to me was the safety when I reached the end zone.”
With the Eric McLaughlin extra point, Dixie State held a 7-0 lead with less than a minute gone in the second. The Mountaineers responded quickly. WSCU quarterback Brett Arrivey drove his team 63 yards in five plays for the score. The big play of the drive came on an Arrivey scramble for 35 yards down to the 1-yard line.
Backup quarterback Cameron Shumway kept the ball on the option to get the touchdown. (Shumway was a redshirt freshman for the Trailblazers in 2014.) With the extra point, the score was tied 7-7 with 12:52 remaining in the half.
The DSU offense continued to move the ball on its next possession. The Blazers drove 65 yards in 13 plays before stalling at the Western 10-yard line. On DSU’s field goal attempt, an errant snap led to a low kick that sailed into the midst of the Western middle. Credited as a block, the Mountaineers took over on their 24-yard line.
After DSU forced a three-and-out, the Blazers once again held good field position at the Western 45-yard line. Two plays later, Clifford Simms got all 45 in one carry for the score. Again it was a play up the middle.
“We felt we would have success up the middle,” said McClure. “Even when they crowded the box, we still had success.”
McLaughlin’s kick hit the upright and bounced back and DSU had to settle for a 13-7 lead. Again, it did not take Western long to respond. With perhaps their only big scoring play of the night, Ekeler got loose and ran for 47 yards and the touchdown. With the extra point, the Mountaineers led for the first time and would take the 14-13 advantage into the locker room.
After halftime, the teams started by trading punts. On DSU’s second possession, Barney drove the ball 80 yards. Sixty-nine of those came on the ground.
“At halftime, Coach (Reilly) Murphy told me that we were going to run the ball in the second half,” said McClure. At the end of the drive it was Coleman once again, but this time a much tougher go, breaking tackles to get 3 yards for the touchdown.
To get the lead back to seven points, McClure left his offense on the field. It paid off when Barney found running back Orlando Wallace, lined up in the slot, on a quick slant. With 2:26 left in the third, Dixie State held a 21-14 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff DSU kicked a high pooch kick to the right side. Western up man Dylan Boyce caught the kick and took two steps before being drilled by DSU defensive back Cesar Fermin. The hit forced a fumble that was recovered by the Blazers. After blowing the play dead and consulting, a penalty flag was thrown for catch interference, giving the ball back to Western.
“It was certainly a big call,” said McClure. “Ultimately we still won, but the call took away a turnover on a great legal hit by Cesar Fermin.”
With the penalty, Western got the ball with their best field position of the day on the DSU 47-yard line. They could not take advantage though, as the Mountaineers turned the ball over on downs to start the fourth quarter.
After a DSU punt, Western got the ball back. Arrivey drove the Mountaineers 80 yards in 13 plays, ending with the quarterback calling his own number on a 1-yard keeper. However, the point-after suffered the same fate as the earlier DSU PAT. It bounced back after hitting the upright.
“That miss was a key moment in the game,” said McClure. “It gave us the momentum back after they had just scored.” With 6:52 remaining Dixie held a slight 21-20 advantage.
On the Blazer’s next possession, it was the Barney/Coleman show, bookended by two great receptions by wide receiver Aubrey Reed. Barney found Reed on a double move hitch-and-go for 26 yards to start the drive. Then Barney and Coleman gained the next 30 yards between them. With 2:25 remaining in the game Barney threw a high floater to the back left corner of the end zone where Reed made a spectacular catch.
“The coach asked me if I was ready to make a play,” said Reed. “I said ‘Throw me the ball.’ The defender had great coverage on me. It was a perfect throw by Blake.”
McLaughlin’s important extra point split the uprights and the Blazer lead was 28-20.
On Western’s next possession, the Dixie State defense came up with a big turnover. Arrivey dropped back to pass at midfield. DSU defensive end Remington Kelly hit the quarterback from behind, jarring the ball loose. Several players tried to corral the fumble. It eventually squirted back where Kelly made a quick bear crawl to recover the fumble as two Mountaineer offensive lineman dived onto him.
“I did not know the ball had come out,” said Kelly. “I thought the quarterback still had it. As I let go of him I saw the ball pop back. I was able to get to it before they did.”
With 1:09 to play, DSU ran the ball three straight times forcing time to run off the clock and forcing Western to use their final timeouts. Dixie State called a timeout with 12 seconds left to set up the punt.
“(Dixie punter) Cory Stens had been punting the ball well the whole game,” said McClure. “Last week he had one blocked. We worked on his timing this week. I knew that Western was going to come after him. I told him that I don’t care if his punt only goes three yards, just get it off.”
The punt sailed down to Western’s 4-yard line. It was Stens’ fourth punt of the game. His punts gave WSCU starting positions at the 4, 6, 18 and 4-yard lines for the game. The clock read :01 when the whistle blew. Western’s final play was a pass that had some laterals thrown, but eventually ended up in Colton Olson’s hands to end the game with a turnover.
As a team, DSU was outgained by the Mountaineers 394-378, but held the advantage in rushing 277-199. Stens punt average for the game was 47.4. Individually for Dixie State, Simms led the team in rushing with 93 net yards on 13 carries. Coleman gained 88 yards on 12 carries. Reed had four receptions for 79 yards. Defensively, linebacker Garret Hutnick led the team with nine tackles. Linebacker Shiloh Pritchard and defensive backs Olson and Tyneil Cooper had seven apiece.
The Trailblazers improve to 2-3 overall and 2-2 in the RMAC. They will travel to Chadron, Neb., next week to take on Chadron State. Game time is set for 1 p.m. Western falls to 3-2 both overall and in conference play. They will travel to Fort Lewis College next week.
Stats: DSU 28, WSCU 20
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