ST. GEORGE – A hot start in the second half allowed No. 20-ranked Colorado Mesa to take the lead from Dixie State. The Mavericks then held DSU in check to leave St. George with a 35-22 victory.
The Mavericks scored on their first two possessions of the second half to turn a 15-14 halftime deficit into a 28-15 lead and were not challenged thereafter.
Dixie State shocked the Mavericks on their first possession. On third-and-7 from the CMU 28-yard line, Mavs quarterback Eystin Salum dropped back and threw to his receiver on the right. Dixie State defensive back Jaylen Moore was there to pick it off. He did not have a straight shot to the end zone, however, as he had to take some evasive maneuvers to get the pick-six. The point-after attempt was marred by an errant snap and the Blazers had to be content with an early 6-0 lead.
“We were in cover two,” Moore said. “I was keying on the quarterback and he was looking at my receiver the whole way. I could not believe he threw it. After catching it I got great blocking in front of me to get me to the end zone.”
Later in the first, after the Mavericks failed to score on a 50-yard field goal attempt, DSU quarterback Malik Watson drove the offense 62 yards where it stalled at the Colorado Mesa 5-yard line. This time, however, the kicking unit was able to convert and A.J. Yergenson hit the field goal from 22 yards out.
The CMU offense was finally able to move the ball in the second quarter. Two drives were both converted early and with just over nine minutes remaining in the half, the Mavericks had their first lead, 14-9.
The Trailblazers responded on their next possession. Watson completed 5 of 6 passes on the drive that went 76 yards. His completion to Dejuan Dantzler from 19 yards out put the Trailblazers up again, 15-14. The 2-point attempt after touchdown was no good.
Neither team would threaten the rest of the quarter and Dixie State took the one-point lead into the halftime break.
The Trailblazers held a 267-193 yardage advantage at the break. Watson was very efficient in the first half, completing 14 of 18 passes for 165 yards. The Blazers also held a 17:45-12:15 advantage in time of possession.
The Dixie State lead would be short-lived after halftime. The Mavericks scored on their first two possessions. The first came on a big play when running back David Tann broke through the right side and ran 67 yards to regain the lead for CMU. Three minutes later, the Colorado Mesa offense scored again courtesy of a short field. Starting at the Dixie State 46-yard line, the Mavericks took five plays to go up two scores, 28-15, with 9:44 showing on the clock.
“We had some critical missed defensive assignments that led to big plays for (Colorado Mesa),” McClure said. “And there were some plays where we just could not make a tackle.”
Dixie State would get on the scoreboard in the second half near the close of the third. After a good punt return by Tyneil Cooper, the Trailblazers started at the CMU 40-yard line. On the first play of the series, Watson dropped back, then stepped up to avoid the rush. He threw a bullet pass to receiver Kasey Allison at the 5-yard line. Allison had created enough distance from his defender that he crossed the goal line untouched.
That made it a one-possession game at 28-22 with more than a quarter left to play.
At the end of the third and in the fourth quarter, the ball rarely crossed into Maverick territory. The Maverick possessions were either just short of midfield or across in DSU territory. The Dixie D held for most of the quarter, but the Mavericks finally got the two-score lead midway through the fourth on a 15-yard rush by Tann. With 6:44 remaining, the scoreboard had CMU up 35-22, and that would be how the game would end as Dixie State was unable to create any offensive momentum in the fourth quarter.
“I know that the scoreboard shows they scored 35 points, but our defense played well tonight,” said Dixie State quarterback Malik Watson. “Offensively, we need to play better and put them in better position. (Colorado Mesa) did not do anything unexpected. We just did not execute tonight.”
The Trailblazers managed only 59 yards of total offense after halftime. Colorado Mesa ended with a 542-326 yard advantage for the game.
Individually for Dixie State, Lika Palmer led the team with 58 yards rushing on 14 carries. Watson completed 20 of 34 passes for two touchdowns and 250 yards. Allison had seven receptions for 140 yards. Orlando Wallace and Dantzler had four receptions each.
On defense, back Mike Jones led the team with 14 tackles. Noe Perez and Tane Tuifua had nine apiece.
Colorado Mesa improves to 6-1 both overall and in the RMAC. Dixie State falls to 3-4 overall and 3-3 in the conference. The Trailblazers will now go on the road for a noon game next Saturday against Colorado Mines in Golden, Colo.
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