A record-setting dream was left unfulfilled for Dixie State University football Saturday night.
Coming off a win in its last game, DSU hosted South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, looking to start its season 2-0 for the first time since joining the NCAA. The Trailblazers would have to wait another year as they fell in a heartbreaker 31-27.
The Trailblazers started the game on the right foot as they scored on their first possession of the game. It was redshirt freshman Clifford Simms who took the ball 15 yards into the end zone. DSU was able to convert the two-point conversion and took an 0-8 lead.
The first quarter came to an abrupt end for DSU as it had a 41-yard field goal attempt blocked and the Hardrockers took over on downs. DSU’s defense was the story in the first half as it forced two consecutive turnovers after the blocked field goal.
SDSM was able to chip away at the lead at the end of the first half as they put a 42-yard field goal through the uprights bringing the game to 3-8 in favor of DSU.
The Hardrockers didn’t waste any time in the second half as they broke away for an 86-yard rushing touchdown to take the lead 10-8.
“We knew what they were going to do,” said senior defensive lineman Malcolm Jackson, a communication major from Spring Valley, California. “We made a lot of mental mistakes and didn’t execute how we were supposed to.”
The lead was short-lived as DSU would immediately retaliate. From its own 49-yard line, DSU sophomore quarterback Tyson Blackner dropped back for a pass and was forced out of the pocket. While scrambling, Blackner heaved a pass to the goal line which was hauled in by redshirt senior Aubrey Reed for the 51-yard touchdown.
DSU failed to make the extra point attempt but regained the advantage 10-14.
“I think he was throwing it to me,” said redshirt senior wide receiver Aubrey Reed, a communication major from Tacoma, Washington. “It was good to get involved in the offense and get some catches more today.”
Blackner led the charge for the Trailblazer offense as he finished with 306 all-purpose yards. He threw for 213 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 94 yards on 11 carries. Blackner sustained a lower body injury near the end of the third quarter and was replaced by freshman quarterback Josh Thompson.
DSU’s defense struggled in the second half after only allowing 138 total yards in the first half. It allowed the Hardrockers to convert on eight of 16 third down conversions throughout the game.
“We let our emotions get the best of us,” Jackson said. “I just wish it could have ended differently tonight.”
Both teams exchanged touchdowns to bring the score to 17-21 in favor of DSU before the Hardrockers struck again on a nine-yard rushing touchdown to tilt the game in their favor, 24-21.
On the following DSU drive, Thompson, who had just replaced Blackner as quarterback, attempted to complete a screen pass. A SDSM defender was able to intercept the pass near midfield and return the ball all the way to the nine-yard line.
The Hardrockers wasted no time on extending their lead as they scored on a rushing touchdown on the first play to push the score to 31-21.
“It wasn’t too tough [to switch quarterbacks],” Reed said. “They’ve both been taking a lot of reps in practice. [Thompson] is always ready so it wasn’t a big deal.”
On the following possession, DSU marched down the field and sophomore running back Orlando Wallace finished the drive with a touchdown as he took an 11-yard run across the goal line to bring the Trailblazers to 31-27 after a failed PAT.
DSU’s defense was able to force a punt, and the Trailblazers took over on their own 16-yard line with 38 seconds left.
The Trailblazers successfully completed a hook-and-ladder play, which put them inside SDSM territory at the 45-yard line. In a last-ditch effort, Thompson’s Hail-Mary pass went begging and was intercepted with four seconds remaining to seal the defeat for the Trailblazers.
“I thought the offense gave us a chance,” said head coach Shay McClure. “We had a lot of teaching moments tonight. We’re young and inexperienced, and we are trying to change that.”
DSU was plagued with 7 penalties which caused them to surrender 78 yards, many of which were dead-ball personal fouls. McClure said the team didn’t play intellig ently.
“We beat ourselves,” McClure said. “We didn’t take advantage of the situations we had. We killed ourselves by being selfish, and we will take care of that immediately.”
DSU is 1-1 on the young season and aim to get back on track against Black Hills State University Saturday at noon.