Trailblazers quiet crowd, capture 2nd win at Western State

Photo courtesy DSU Athletics

GUNNISON, Colo. – Western State-Colorado had its biggest crowd of the year, a vocal group that yearned for the Mountaineers’ first victory of the season. But visiting Dixie State had other ideas.

Sei-J Lauago and Blake Barney combined for 193 rushing yards as the Trailblazers held off Western State 15-12 Saturday afternoon at the Mountaineer Bowl.

Lauago had 111 yards on 18 carries, scoring a short touchdown in the second quarter to lead the way. Barney, who missed last week’s loss to Central Washington after sustaining a concussion, was back on the field and the former Dixie Flyer racked up 82 rushing yards as quarterback in the wildcat formation.

Barney ran it for two key first downs on the last drive of the game to help the Trailblazers run out the clock and secure the win.

Dixie State started the game with the ball, but was forced to punt after one first down. The Mountaineers then grabbed the early lead by driving 79 yards in 10 plays. Max Smith converted on a 33-yard field goal attempt to make it 3-0 with 8:27 to go in the opening quarter. DSU committed three defensive penalties on the drive, including a 15-yard facemasking infraction that helped set up the field goal.

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

Things looked bleak early in the second quarter for Dixie State when a turnover turned into immediate points for Western State. Barney passed complete to Lauago, but the DSU running back was stripped of the ball at his own 5-yard line. Mountaineer defensive back Brenden Hisao scooped up the loose ball and ran into the end zone for a defensive touchdown. The extra point by Smith failed, but WSCU had a 9-0 lead with 11:53 left in the first half.

DSU answered right away. Barney and Lauago led a 10-play, 78-yard drive to the end zone. Lauago atoned for his fumble by powering in a score from a yard out. The extra point was no good after a bobbled snap, leaving it at 9-6 with 6:54 to go in the half.

After a Western State punt, Barney led Dixie State on a scoring drive just before halftime. He and Lauago took turns rushing the ball as the Trailblazers ran it eight straight times to go from their own 22 to the WSCU 6. AJ Yergensen hit a 23-yard field goal to tie the game with 14 seconds left in the half.

Dixie State’s Blake Barney (5), file photo from Dixie State University vs. Western State Colorado University, Football , St. George, Utah, Oct. 1, 2016, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

After intermission, the defenses took over. Both teams were forced to punt twice on the first four possessions of the second half.  Dixie State finally broke through late in the third quarter. Malik Watson completed four passes to move the ball to the Western State 35. On a first-and-10, Lika Palmer burst through the line and into open field for a 35-yard Dixie State touchdown. The extra point was no good, but DSU had its first lead of the afternoon at 15-9.

The Trailblazer defense was tough in the second half, allowing just five first downs and forcing five punts. Wester State got its only points of the second half when Smith hit a 44-yard field goal with 4:42 left in the game. The Mountaineers then kicked deep to DSU, hoping to get a defensive stop and possession of the ball.

But the defensive stop never happened.

Dixie State ran out the rest of the game clock with Barney gaining 10 on a third-and-8, then Watson hitting Kasey Allison with a 39-yard pass on a third-and-10. With the clock under a minute and Western State out of timeouts, Dixie State faced a third-and-2 at the Mountaineer 16-yard line. Barney took the snap and hit the hole for a 4-yard gain and a first down. The Blazers then ran the clock out from there.

Dixie State (2-3) ended up outgaining the 367-208, allowing WSCU (0-5) just 106 rushing yards and 102 passing yards. There were 17 punts in the game, nine by the Mountaineers.

Watson was 11 for 14 passing for 131 yards, with Allison as his favorite target (four catches, 58 yards). Noe Perez had an outstanding defensive game with seven tackles, including three sacks.

The Trailblazers return home next Saturday for a battle with Chadron State. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. at Legend Solar Stadium.

Stats: DSU 15, WSCU 12

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