ST. GEORGE – The No. 2 nationally-ranked passing offense butted heads with the No. 6 nationally-ranked passing defense at Legend Solar Stadium this afternoon. The defense prevailed and with Dixie State racing past Adams State 54-28, much to the delight of the fans attending the homecoming game.
Dixie High alum Blake Barney got the start for today’s game and the move paid dividends. Barney ran the read option very effectively and scored twice in the first quarter. The first touchdown came with 7:07 in the first. Barney faked a bubble screen, then ran up the middle. He made one tackler miss, then finally went down in the arms of a Grizzly player just as he crossed the goal line.
The scoring play was set up earlier in the drive when Barney, on a 2nd-and-19 at the DSU 36-yard line, faked a bubble screen to his right then turned to his left and found Sei-J Lauago set up for a screen with blockers in front of him. The play went for 28 yards.
“Sei-J (Lauago) is more than just a power running back,” said Dixie State head coach Shay McClure. “He can catch the ball, throw the ball, he is fast and has good field vision.”
Later in the quarter, after a Grizzly punt, the Trailblazers took over at their own 33-yard line. Barney hit Lauago for another bubble screen to the left. But instead of gaining yardage, Lauago reared back and found Kasey Allison downfield with the double pass. The pass was underthrown, preventing a touchdown, but still went for 38 yards. Lauago then gained 14 yards on the next play. Three plays later, Barney had his second touchdown with a 6-yard run. The Blazer lead was 14-0 with 4:12 left in the first.
The Grizzlies got a break late in the first quarter. Barney threw an interception deep in Blazer territory. Three plays later, Adams State got on the scoreboard with a 17-yard fade pass in the end zone from Nick Rooney to receiver James Holtrop. Five seconds into the second quarter, the lead was halved, 14-7.
On the Blazers ensuing possession, Barney led them on a sustained, 11-play drive. It stalled at the Grizzly 13-yard line, though and the Blazers settled for a 30-yard A.J. Yergensen field goal.
The Grizzlies immediately reciprocated. With 7:39 to go in the half, running back Tyree Harris plunged in from 1-yard out to pull ASU to 17-14.
On the Blazers next play from scrimmage, Lauago broke loose on the left side, then ran down the middle of the field, breaking several tackles downfield, before being pulled down at the 25-yard line. The Blazers could not punch it in, though, and had to settle for a second Yergensen field goal, this one from 22-yards out. With just over five minutes left in the half, DSU led 20-14.
On the Grizzlies next possession, Rooney again drove the offense down the field. But once ASU got into the red zone, Rooney’s pass was intercepted by Tyneil Cooper at the 3-yard line. Cooper ran up the Grizzly sideline 65 yards to give the Blazers excellent field position with 1:26 remaining.
“I was covering the underneath route,” said Cooper. “We knew what they liked to do, though. The coaches prepped us well. As soon as he threw it, I came off my guy and stepped in front of the deep route. I thought I had a pick-six. But they caught me from behind.”
Two plays later, Barney scrambled right and found Allison breaking the other direction. The speedy receiver ran the remaining distance to score the 31-yard touchdown reception with 50 seconds remaining.
“When Kasey has one-on-one coverage, I know I can just throw it up in his vicinity and he will come down with it,” Barney said.
The Grizzlies were able to get to midfield on the last possession of the half, but Rooney’s Hail Mary was intercepted by Trayvon Watson. The halftime score remained at 27-14.
At intermission, the Blazers had outgained Adams State 367-191. Lauago and Barney had combined for 191 yards rushing.
On the Grizzlies first possession after the break, Rooney threw to the right. DSU cornerback Jaylen Moore was in coverage and ripped the ball out of the receiver’s hands for the interception. But the play was called out-of-bounds. That set up a field goal attempt by the Grizzlies. The attempt was short, but on the play the Blazers were called offsides, giving the ball back to ASU with a fresh set of downs. Rooney went right back to his receiver on the right side. This time Moore got the interception and stayed in bounds in the end zone, giving Dixie State a touchback at the 20-yard line.
“They ran the same play,” said Moore. “The second time, I was able to turn my body to the ball and stay inbounds.”
The Blazers got two big plays on the ensuing drive. The first came with Lauago going 30 yards to midfield. Three plays later, Barney found slot Orlando Wallace open down the middle of the field. Wallace ran under Barney’s high arching pass for a 46-yard touchdown catch. With 11:12 to play in the third, Dixie went up three scores, 34-14.
“Orlando (Wallace) is always the fastest guy on the field,” Barney said. “When I saw him break free, I just threw it as deep as I could. I knew he would get to it.”
The Grizzlies got seven back on the next drive. Rooney drove the Grizzly offense 75 yards, culminating in a 13-yard pass to receiver Marquese Surrel with 6:53 remaining in the third.
The next scoring drive for the Blazers came nearly halfway through the fourth. Barney connected with Wallace twice on the drive. The second pass was a bubble screen to the left. Wallace made a defender miss, then ran up the Grizzly sideline and scored with receivers Allison and DeJuan Dantzler throwing excellent downfield blocks. The score was 41-21 with 7:34 left to play.
On the next Grizzly possession, head coach Timm Rosenbach used a little trickery. The offense had driven to the DSU 22. They then huddled briefly, quickly broke and hurried to the line. The Dixie State defense then hurried, but the ball was snapped before they got set. The ball was pitched to running back Miles Fishback, who then threw a halfback pass to a wide-open Chad Hovasse in the end zone. With still plenty of time on the clock (6:48), it was once again a two-possession game, 41-28.
The Blazers anticipated the ensuing onside kick by Adams State. Dixie State was able to cover the ball and took advantage with the short field by running clock on seven straight rushing plays. The Grizzlies had to burn some timeouts to preserve clock. But they could not prevent the Blazers from scoring. Lauago got the touchdown on a 4-yard run to put DSU up 47-28 with 3:56 left. The two-point conversion failed.
The Blazers got the backbreaker on Adams State’s next possession. With just under three minutes to play, ASU’s Rooney scrambled to the left. Just as he set up to throw, Blazer defensive lineman Donovan Williams delivered the hit and forced the fumble. Remington Kelly was also closing in and opportunistically scooped up the ball and ran 46 yards the other direction to put the final points on the scoreboard 54-28.
“It was a great hit from Donovan,” Kelly said. “The ball bounced right in front of me. I am glad it was only half the field, too. I would not have made it if I had to run 100 yards.”
The defensive touchdown put an exclamation point on the entire team performance. Dixie State outgained the Grizzlies 620-478 yards. The Blazers forced Adams State into four turnovers. Individually for the Blazers, Lauago led the team with 187 yards on 22 carries. Barney had 151 yards rushing on 19 carries. Combined, Barney and Lauago completed 11 of 16 passes for 242 yards. Defensively, Alex Lillard and Williams led the team with eight tackles apiece. Williams and Amate Savusa each had a sack.
“Our defensive coaches had an excellent game plan” McClure said. “The defense rose to the challenge and played outstanding against a very good passing offense.”
The win improves DSU’s overall record to 4-5 and conference record to 4-4. The Trailblazers will have their last home game next week against a very good CSU-Pueblo team before finishing the season on the road the following Saturday at Fort Lewis University. Adams State falls to 3-6 overall and 3-5 in the RMAC.
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