ST. GEORGE – There’s a reason Colorado State-Pueblo is ranked in the top 25 in the nation in Division II football. The Thunderwolves put on a show of discipline and experience by methodically putting points up on the scoreboard while their defense kept Dixie State’s potent running attack in check in Saturday’s 31-10 CSU-P victory at Legen Solar Stadium.
“There are some games where you just get beat by a superior team,” Dixie State head coach Shay McClure said. “CSU-Pueblo is perennially ranked and cycles through very good athletes in its program. Their program was not like that when Coach (John) Wristen first arrived. And we hope to progress to that program’s caliber in a few years.”
The Thunderwolves scored on their first two possessions. Dixie State stopped them on the first drive, but CSU-P kicker Mitchell Carter’s field goal attempt was good from 49 yards. After a three-and-out by the Trailblazers, CSU-P quarterback Rex Dausin took his offense 53 yards for a touchdown. His pass to running back Marche Dennard from 15 yards out put the Thunderwolves up 10-0 with 6:08 remaining in the first.
Dixie State got excellent starting field position on its next possession thanks to a 36-yard kickoff return from running back Jeffrey Coprich. Starting at their own 41-yard line, the Blazers drove to the CSU-P 23 before having to settle for a 40-yard field goal by A.J. Yergensen with 2:23 left in the first.
The Dixie State defense held the Thunderwolves scoreless over their next five possessions. The last two ended with an interception by Blazer safety Trayvon Watson and a fumble forced by defensive end Remington Kelly, both in the red zone.
But the Wolves scored on their last possession of the half. Taking the ball over at their own 43-yard line, Dausin directed the team 57 yards in only 43 seconds of game clock to take the two-score lead just before halftime, 17-3.
The Blazers pulled within seven points on their first possession after the break. Starting at its own 25, Dixie State sustained a 17-play drive that ended with quarterback Blake Barney taking the ball on a read option for the final 3 yards. With 6:26 remaining in the third, the score was 17-10.
The Dixie State defense held on the next possession, but the Thunderwolves put up 14 points on consecutive drives to start the fourth. The Pueblo offense was satisfied getting 4 or 5 yards each down to move the chains and keep the clock running. Combined, the drives churned up 10 minutes of precious game time. The first ended with Dennard getting his second touchdown on a 5-yard run. The final score of the game came on a 15-yard pass from Dausin to receiver Ammon Johnson with 5:45 remaining.
“We were in man-to-man coverage most of the game,” said Watson. “They had a good offensive scheme for that. They threw a lot of underneath stuff and ran some pick plays. Those are very difficult to cover in man-to-man.”
Despite the final score, the Blazer defense held the Wolves to only 331 yards of total offense. Dixie State was held to an anemic 168 yards. Individually for the Blazers, Sei-J Lauago led the team with 72 yards on 17 carries. Coprich and Orlando Wallace each had three receptions. Barney completed 12 of 23 passes for 63 yards.
“CSU-Pueblo was very disciplined on defense,” Lauago said. “Holes to run through closed up very quickly. They were very quick reacting to the ball.”
Defensively for the Blazers, safeties Mike Jones and Trayvon Watson led the team with eight tackles apiece. Linebackers Noe Perez and Jordan Nichols were behind them with seven tackles apiece. Watson pulled down his team-leading fourth interception. Defensive lineman Amate Savusa had a sack and two tackles for loss.
“Amate Savusa was unblockable for most of the game,” said McClure. “He is very quick out of his three-point stance.”
The Thunderwolves move to 8-2 overall and 8-1 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. The Blazers fall to 4-6 overall and 4-5 in the RMAC. Dixie State will finish its season next week on the road when the Blazers travel to Durango, Colo., to face the Fort Lewis Skyhawks. The Blazers beat Fort Lewis last year to finish with their first NCAA Division II winning record.
“We certainly want to end the season with a W,” McClure said. “To do that, we will have to beat a good Fort Lewis team on the road next week.”
Stats: CSU-P 31, DSU 10
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