ST. GEORGE — The Dixie State University football team got a reminder of how much tougher the competition is in Division I on Saturday night.
Playing in its home opener at Greater Zion Stadium and kicking off its second year as a member of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), Dixie couldn’t get its offense going and was defeated 19-7 by visiting Sacramento State.
In the team’s weight room after the game, Dixie State head coach Paul Peterson spoke with St. George News and said that even though it wasn’t the outcome the Trailblazers hoped for, the players sure were happy to be back out on the field.
“It’s awesome to play at this level, play a team like that. They were waiting a long time to play too and they were ready to go,” Peterson said. “It was good to be home, great crowd, great atmosphere.”
He added that Dixie played hard and fought well, but missed some opportunities and had a couple of mistakes that hurt them in the end.
Sac State took advantage of an interception on Dixie’s first possession to convert a field goal, then jumped ahead 5-0 after Trailblazers quarterback Kody Wilstead was penalized for intentional grounding in the end zone, resulting in a safety.
It was a single play that represented the whole night for Wilstead, who was under constant pressure and finished with 15 completed passes in 31 attempts, with 158 yards and the one interception.
“The down and distances he was in wasn’t really fair, you know. We want to get him in good down and distances and keep it manageable so he can have some simple success and easy completions,” Peterson said.
Dixie State found a rhythm on offense in its second possession of the second quarter. Wilstead scrambled for an 11-yard touchdown that briefly put the home team ahead, but the Hornets marched right back down the field and scored to take a 12-7 lead into halftime.
Then, midway through the third quarter, Hornets quarterback Asher O’Hara threw his second touchdown pass to Marshel Martin and that completed the scoring in the game.
The rest of the contest was bogged down by penalties and tough defensive play.
Dixie’s defense was on the field for much of the game after the Trailblazers offense failed to sustain drives. The defense did well to hold Asher to just 119 passing yards and the Hornets to a total of 208 rushing yards.
Meanwhile, Sacramento State’s defense did a good job of limiting the Trailblazers’ success in the deep passing game. Peterson noted that Dixie missed a couple of deep balls that could have changed the momentum of the game.
“If we’re going to win football games we need some more conversions on third down and have good second downs. I thought we went backwards a little bit too often,” Peterson said.
Quali Conley led the Trailblazers with 26 rushing yards on eight carries. Receiver Jalen Powell was the team leader with four catches for 48 yards.
Dixie’s road doesn’t get any easier with Weber State coming to St. George next week.
“The first game is always good to see where you are, and I think we’re in a good spot,” Peterson said. “It just shows that the margin of error is so little at this level. We got to be better, we got to step our game up for next week.”
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