Dixie State football falters in home Division I debut

ST. GEORGE — On a cold, irregular St. George night, the Dixie State Trailblazers football team produced an effort that they hope will also be irregular.

Tarleton State football at Dixie State, Greater Zion Stadium, St. George, Utah, March 13, 2021 | Photo by Rich Allen, St. George News

The Trailblazers were held scoreless in the first half en route to a runaway victory for the Tarleton State Texans. They got some consolation scoring late in the game, but by the time the Trailblazers offense started solving the Texans, the deficit was too great and there were too few seconds left on the clock.

The Texans secured their revenge from week one’s loss to the Blazers on Saturday night by a final score of 37-15.

For head coach Paul Peterson, the issue wasn’t the game plan or failing to make adjustments. It was simply just not getting it done.

“It wasn’t like they didn’t have any energy and we didn’t come out flat or anything like that, I just feel like we didn’t make enough plays,” Peterson said.

The run game was there for Dixie State, as it was in the team’s first matchup with Tarleton on Feb. 27.

Quali Conley rushed for 100 yards flat. But as the passing game faltered, which it did quickly, the burden on the running backs increased and Tarleton met the challenge.

Tarleton State football at Dixie State, Greater Zion Stadium, St. George, Utah, March 13, 2021 | Photo by Rich Allen, St. George News

The Texans’ defensive backs applied tight pressure all game to Dixie State’s receivers and forced contested pass attempts. When it became apparent they had the passing game controlled, it allowed the linebackers and linemen to focus on containing the run.

Dixie State starting quarterback Kody Wilsted completed two of his first three passing attempts for eight yards but followed with a stretch of six incomplete passes. His last pass of the first quarter was to Conley for no gain before he started the second with a nine-yard completion.

He then missed on his next five and, after a completion, the next eight. His one completion again went to Conley for four yards.

“(Tarleton) was more aggressive,” Dixie State freshman QB Kobe Tracy, who took over for Wilstead in the second half, said. “They’re an aggressive team. They’re grabbing a lot. We just had to make more contested catches than we normally do.”

It wasn’t until their fourth drive that Dixie crossed midfield. Even then, they only got to the 48-yard line. They got closer two possessions later, reaching the 34 before turning the ball over on downs. It seemed like they had figured something out with their offense on the last possession of the half that saw the Trailblazers take over on their offensive 40 and push to the 13 before the half timed out.

Tarleton State football at Dixie State, Greater Zion Stadium, St. George, Utah, March 13, 2021 | Photo by Rich Allen, St. George News

By then, the Texans had jumped out to a 17-point edge. They drove a collective 133 yards in 10 plays across their first two drives, both resulting in touchdowns.

A muffed onside kick to start the second half put Tarleton in the offensive end to start the drive, resulting in another touchdown and a 24-0 lead for the Texans.

Wilstead countered by passing for 46 yards on the ensuing drive and getting Dixie State to a fourth and 2 on the offensive 23 and the opportunity to go for it. A false start nixed that plan and the Trailblazers settled for a field goal by James Baird.

After Tarleton countered with three points of their own, Peterson opted to give his freshman QB a shot. In his first game in the red, Tracy threw for 123 yards capped by a 49-yard touchdown to David Fisher to give the Trailblazers their first touchdown. Tracy ended the game with another end-zone connection with Fisher.

Dixie State falls to 1-2 as they already cross their halfway point in the pandemic-induced spring schedule. The Trailblazers travel to Kennesaw, Georgia for a date with Kennesaw State on March 20.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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