Football preview: Chances slim for DSU in WSCU game

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The Trailblazers face a tough opponent in Western State Colorado University and will need to play their best game of the season if they hope to come out on top.

Dixie State University returns home after a two-game road trip to resume conference play Saturday. Here’s the scoop.

What happened last week

The Trailblazers were blown out by the Central Washington University Wildcats 40-18. They gave up season-highs in points (40), rush yards (275), pass yards (215), and total yards (490).

DSU got off on the wrong foot to begin with. On its first series, its punt was blocked and returned for a touchdown just three minutes into the first quarter. Things didn’t get much better from there. CWU led 27-10 at halftime and the Trailblazers were never able to fight their way out of the deficit.

DSU was never able to get the ground game going. It was only able to manage 86 total yards on the ground. The Trailblazers were outmatched up front and had to rely on the pass game, and that hasn’t been their strongest aspect so far this season. The good news is it was not a conference game, so DSU can learn from it and move on.

Last meeting with WSCU

DSU and WSCU have never faced each other before, making Saturday the first ever matchup between the schools. With DSU now in the RMAC, these two teams will face each other at least once a year now.

DSU vs. WSCU by the numbers 

When comparing the numbers between the two teams, there are some glaring differences. This could be a very ugly game for the Trailblazers if their defense doesn’t play well.

The Mountaineers are an offensive juggernaut. It’s a big reason why they are 3-1 on the season. They are averaging 455.5 yards per game and are coming off a game in which they gained 582 total yards of offense. The more impressive stat, however, is how many rush yards they gained. WSCU torched Colorado Schools of Mines and Technology for 334 rush yards. The scary part was this wasn’t even their season high in rush yards. That came against Chadron State with 377.

For the Trailblazers, they’re averaging 393 yards of total yards of offense, 124 yards rushing and 263 yards passing. They’re averaging 20 points per game and allowing opposing teams to score 26 points and gain nearly 400 yards on offense. DSU has also not been very disciplined so far this year as it averages 7 penalties for 68 yards per game.

What to expect 

No surprise here.  WSCU is going to run the ball. This is their biggest weapon, and they are going to use it.

WSCU is led by senior running back Austin Ekeler, who last year, as a junior, racked up about every offensive award one can get. He was selected to the All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference first team, and was a candidate for the Harlon Hill Trophy, an award that is given to the top player in Division II, among others.

This year is no different. Ekeler is the Mountaineer’s battery. He is getting an average of 29 carries a game and rushes for 208 yards per contest. He alone has scored 9 touchdowns this year. In comparison, DSU’s entire team has scored 11 touchdowns so far. As a team, WSCU is rushing for just under 300 yards per game which makes up for 65 percent of its offense. The offense puts up nearly 35 points per game. 

My take

The Trailblazers have their work cut out for them. This is going to be DSU’s toughest matchup of the year. It needs to put all its attention on containing Ekeler. If the Trailblazers don’t do this, he is going to run up and down the field all day. If the defense can hold Ekeler to under 100 rushing yards, they will have a chance to win. If not, it could be a long game.

DSU can’t try and outscore the Mountaineers – they won’t be able to. WSCU is too good offensively. DSU’s defense has to have its best game of the year. WSCU has won all three of its games this year when they scored over 14 points. If the Trailblazers can’t limit them to a similar total, WSCU might score 50 points.

DSU has to limit penalties. It can’t afford to give a team like WSCU any more yards. The offense also has to play better. There is still a big question mark at the quarterback position as sophomores Tyson Blackner and Blake Barney might not be available for the game due to injury. If they can’t play, it will be up to freshman quarterback Josh Thompson to lead DSU’s offense, which has struggled mightily in its last two games.

It could be a long game for the Trailblazers, but if they can do these things, they can secure their best win of the season.