Big first half lifts South Dakota Mines past Dixie State

Dixie State University, 0-2, fell to South Dakota Mines 35-14 Saturday night. The Blazers return home next Saturday at Legend Solar Stadium | File photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

RAPID CITY, S.D. – Using a high-powered offense, South Dakota Mines took a large, early lead then rode out the second half to take its second win of the season at the hands of Dixie State, 35-14 Saturday night at O’Harra Stadium.

Dixie State took its longest road trip of the season to the very northern confines of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference to take on the Hardrockers, but fell behind early and never quite recovered vs. South Dakota Mines.

“They did not do anything we did not practice against this past week,” Dixie State head coach Shay McClure said. “We made minor adjustments at halftime, but essentially our defense executed in the second half where they did not execute in the first. And conversely, our offense executed in the first half but could not finish drives in the second. We need to make some evaluations and see if some changes are needed. We have to execute fully as a team for the entire game.”

South Dakota scored on its initial three drives. On its first drive, SDM drove 75 yards in 11 plays. With 10:45 to go in the first quarter, running back Kevin Thompson ran the ball in from the 3-yard line to give SDM the early 7-0 lead.

After a three-and-out by DSU, the Hardrockers got good field position and only needed 34 yards to get to the end zone. Quarterback Jake Sullivan connected with Isaiah Manley from 8-yards out to put the Hardrockers up two scores, 14-0, with 7:26 left in the first quarter.

Dixie State’s Sei-J Lauago (25), file photo from Dixie State University vs. New Mexico Highlands University, Football, St. George, Utah, Sept. 1, 2016, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

The Blazers got on the board with their next possession. Quarterback Malik Watson drove the team 74 yards in 10 plays. Sei-J Lauago punched it in from the 1. Anthoney Reyes’ PAT halved the Hardrocker lead to 14-7.

Less than a minute later, the Hardrockers responded. Sullivan scored the Hardrockers third touchdown of the opening period with a scramble from 8-yards out. With 2:35 left in the first, the score was 21-7.

In the second quarter, SDM took a three-touchdown lead when running back Dorian Cowart finished a drive with a 9-yard rush to score the touchdown and put the Hardrockers up 28-7.

Late in the first half, Orlando Wallace caught a 17-yard pass from Watson in the back of the end zone to cut the lead to 28-14. That is where the score stayed when the teams went to their locker rooms for halftime.

At the half, the Hardrockers held a 302-203 yard advantage. Watson had hit 70 percent of his passes, going 14 for 20 for 149 yards and a touchdown.

As much as the offenses scored in the first half, the second turned into a defensive battle. Neither team scored until the Hardrockers got a big play in the final two minutes. Thompson ran for 51 yards for his second touchdown of the day to get to the final score of 35-14.

Before that touchdown, Dixie State had kept the Hardrockers at bay, including a goal-line stand late in the fourth quarter.

The Hardrockers won the turnover battle 2-0. They outgained DSU 481-387.

Individually for the Trailblazers, Watson finished with 284 yards passing. He completed 26 of 45 attempts. Wallace was his favorite target, snagging 10 passes for 56 yards and a touchdown. Josiah Blandon and Kasey Allison had four catches apiece. Lika Palmer and Jeffrey Coprich each caught three targets. Lauago led the team in rushing with 46 yards on 10 carries.

Defensively, linebacker Tane Tuifua led the team with 12 tackles. Trayvon Watson and Mike Jones finished with 10 apiece.

“We saw some positives on our defense,” McClure said. “Trayvon (Watson) and (Alex) Lilliard had good games today. And it is really difficult to evaluate the game in the trenches without seeing film, but our defensive line kept pressure on their quarterback the whole game. Remington Kelly was a big part of that.”

The Trailblazers drop to 0-2, both overall and in the RMAC. They will return to St. George for their home opener against Black Hills State next Saturday, with kickoff set for 6 p.m.

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