Dixie State overcomes bad start, runs past No. 23 Colorado Mesa

Dixie State at Colorado Mesa, Grand Junction, Colo., Oct. 16, 2016 | Photo courtesy CMU Athletics

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – The Dixie State Trailblazers continued their recent dominance in the rushing game, putting up over 300 yards for the second week in a row, in a 38-31 win over the No. 23-ranked Colorado Mesa Mavericks Saturday night in Stocker Stadium.

Redshirt freshman Clifford Sims got the bulk of those yards, gaining 207 in 21 carries.

blazerDcmuA horrid start got the Blazers in a 17-0 hole in the first quarter. But Dixie State proceeded to score 35 unanswered points over the next 25 minutes of game time to seize control on the road.

Early turnovers put DSU in that big hole, but the Blazers started to climb out late in the first quarter. Quarterback Josh Thompson drove the team 92 yards, culminating in a DeJon Coleman 4-yard TD run on the first play of the second quarter.

After forcing a three-and-out, Dixie State put together another sustained drive, this time starting at their own 20-yard line. On third-and-goal from the CMU 13-yard line, Thompson found fullback Ernest Quiocho for the second Dixie State score on a perfectly executed play-action pass to cut the lead to 17-14 with 7:20 remaining in the half.

DSU QB Josh Thompson
DSU QB Josh Thompson

“Josh Thompson played great football tonight,” Dixie State head coach Shay McClure said. “If you take away the interception, which is a freshman mistake that he will learn from, he completed 10 of 11 for 130 yards. Those aren’t bad numbers. He controlled the game and led our offense.”

Neither team could put points on the board the remainder of the half and the Mavericks carried their slim advantage into the locker room.

“After that second quarter, we knew we were playing good football,” said McClure. “We went into the locker room feeling confident. Our offense had two long, sustained scoring drives and our defense shut them down in the second quarter.”

The second half started with a bang for Dixie State. Kickoff returner Justin Martin gathered the ball at the DSU 7-yard line, then ran the 93 yards to paydirt to give the Blazers their first lead, 21-17. The Dixie defense forced a three-and-out and got good field position on the punt at the Dixie State 48-yard line. Three plays later, Simms ran 56 yards for his first touchdown of the night. With less than three minutes gone in the second half, Dixie State held a two-score advantage, 28-17.

The defense forced a third consecutive three-and-out. Dixie State took over at its 24 and with the exception of a pass completion to Orlando Wallace for 13 yards, gained the remaining 63 yards on the ground. With 5:38 remaining in the third quarter Dixie State led 35-17 on Simms’ second touchdown of the night, a 15-yarder.

On the ensuing possession, the Mavericks got seven back as they drove 75 yards in three minutes. David Tann scored his third touchdown of the day, this time on a pass from backup quarterback Eystin Salum from 19 yards out.

Clifford Simms (22) had a big game against Colorado Mesa, file photo from Dixie State University vs. Western State Colorado University, Football , St. George, Utah, Oct. 1, 2016, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Clifford Simms (22) had a big game against Colorado Mesa, file photo from Dixie State University vs. Western State Colorado University, Football , St. George, Utah, Oct. 1, 2016, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

“Our defense played well tonight,” said McClure. “They forced three consecutive punts in the third. Colorado Mesa has exceptional skill players on their offense. We had trouble containing (Tann) out of the backfield on a few plays, but overall our defense was able to keep their offense in check.”

Dixie State took over their next possession at their 25-yard line. Thompson again guided the team on a sustained drive, going 50 yards in 13 plays. The Blazers had to settle for an Anthoney Reyes 42-yard field goal, but more importantly, they shaved off seven minutes of valuable clock and extended the lead to two touchdowns 38-24 with 10:26 left in the game.

“We chewed up valuable time,” said McClure. “Reyes connected on a difficult kick and gave us a good cushion at that point in the game.”

The Mavericks responded with a long drive, getting the ball to the Dixie State 6-yard line. DSU safety Jaylen Moore stepped in front of Salum pass for the interception with 3:57 on the clock.

The Dixie State offense rushed the ball three straight times. The Blazers failed to get the first down, but they forced Colorado Mesa to use all of their timeouts. Stens’ 42-yard punt put CMU’s starting position at its own 22-yard line with 3:31 remaining.

“We were not able to run much time off the clock,” said McClure. “But at that point they were out of timeouts and down two touchdowns.”

Two quick big plays got the ball to the DSU 21-yard line. Four plays later, Salum kept the ball himself for the 4-yard touchdown run that cut the Dixie State lead to 38-31 with 2:17 remaining.

Colorado Mesa elected to not go for the onside kick and Dixie State downed the ball at its own 21-yard line. After Wallace picked up a first down, the Trailblazers ran out the clock and took home a hard-fought 38-31 victory over a nationally-ranked team.

“We fully expected the onside kick,” said McClure. “We had our good-hands receiving team in. They tried to kick the ball over our first wave’s heads. Colton Olson was able to get on the ball.”

The first quarter looked to be the beginning of a blowout loss for the Trailblazers. CMU took advantage of an early Dixie State interception. Starting their drive from midfield, it took the Mavericks just two plays to put up the game’s first touchdown. Sam Rubalcaba found running back Tann for a 48-yard TD pass with 12:23 remaining in the first.

On Dixie State’s next possession, the Blazers coughed the ball up again on a fumble. The Mavericks started in DSU territory at the 35-yard line. Tann would score again, this time on a 4-yard run to push the CMU lead to 14-0 with 8:57 left in the first.

The miscues kept mounting. On Dixie State’s next possession, Stens’ punt was blocked and the Mavericks had their best starting field position of the night at the Blazer 12-yard line. The defense held CMU to zero yardage on the drive, but the Maverick field goal gave the home team a decidedly strong 17-0 first quarter advantage.

“I was at a loss in the first quarter,” said Dixie State head coach Shay McClure. “We know we have to play mistake-free football. But even though we were down 17, it was big for our defense to hold them to a field goal after that blocked punt. Even though they put three up on the board that was a momentum changer for us.”

The Trailblazers outgained Colorado Mesa 465-391, with 332 of those yards coming on the ground. They also held a huge advantage in time of possession 34:53-25:07. Individually for DSU, Coleman joined Simms above the century mark with 111 yards on 25 carries. Aubrey Reed led the team with four receptions and 45 yards. Thompson completed 10 of 12 passes for 133 yards and one touchdown. Defensively, Olson and Noe Perez led the team with nine tackles apiece. Keanu Foki and Darius Matthews each recorded a sack.

The win moves Dixie State to 4-2 in the RMAC, 4-3 overall. The Trailblazers move into a tie for fourth in the conference. Colorado Mesa has dropped two in a row after starting the season 5-0 and climbing to 13th in the national rankings. The Mavericks remain atop the RMAC, tied with Black Hills State and Western State Colorado. Dixie State will return to St. George next week for Homecoming. The Blazers will host Colorado School of Mines Saturday at 1 p.m.

Stats: DSU 38, CMU 31

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.


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