Chadron State College was prolific on offense and limited the highest scoring team in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference to 17 offensive points, but still showed fewer points on the scoreboard as the Colorado Mesa Mavericks went on to a 24-10 win on Elliott Field at Don Beebe Stadium in Chadron on Saturday.
Chadron native Jackson Dickerson had 16 receptions to set a new CSC single-game record, and freshman Dalton Holst recorded the second-most completions by a CSC quarterback, all-time, connecting on 41 of 73 throws. Holst’s attempts were one shy of the school record. Dickerson’s record topped the 15 catches by Bryce Flammang that stood for 14 years.
However the defensive homestand by the Eagles was perhaps equally as impressive, going up against an offense which returned most of the talent from last year’s 40-plus points-per-game playoff team. Mesa racked up nearly 500 yards and scored 49 points the previous week at home against Western State. The Eagles held them under 400 yards and routinely shut down the big play, giving up only three plays of more than 20 yards. CSC recorded four sacks and held the Mavericks to converting less than 33 percent of their third-down plays.
“I’m impressed by our defense,” said CSC Head Football Coach Jay Long. “We held them to 17 points after the pick-six. That offense is very explosive. They have special players at a lot of different positions. Our defense did a great job of keeping them out of the end zone.”
The Mavericks had 11 of their 27 total first downs on two first-half touchdown drives, and were limited to nine first downs over the entire second half.
That didn’t change the fact that Chadron State was held scoreless on six of their eight trips into enemy territory. Twice the Eagles missed field goal opportunities, twice they were stopped on fourth downs on CMU’s side of the field, and they punted once from beyond the 50. The other potential scoring drive turned into six points for the Mavericks, when George Manning intercepted Holst on the Eagles’ first possession of the game, and returned the ball 55 yards to make it 7-0.
“We did well moving the ball between the 20-yard lines,” said Long, “but when we got inside the other team’s 20, we kind of struggled. It really wasn’t all in the red zone; we just weren’t finishing drives. When we go back and look at film, we’re going to figure that out.”
After going into the half down 21-0, the Eagle offense was at its best, gaining 300 of its 515 total yards in the second half. Chadron State scored on a three-play, 89-yard drive in the third quarter after Holst found Brandon Fullerton wide open on the sideline for a 76-yard gain, and two plays later scored on a Colton Wrighttouchdown catch of five yards.
Will Morgan chipped in a field goal late in the game on a 12-play, 69-yard drive, but it was not enough to erase CSC’s deficit. CMU’s only points in the second half were on a 35-yard field goal in the third quarter.
Despite the loss, the Eagles outgained CMU by 515 to 387 yards, had one more first down in the game, 28 to 27, and won time of possession 31:16 to 28:44. Chadron State’s defense produced four sacks, while the offensive line kept a clean sheet with none allowed.
Dickerson’s 137 yards receiving led the team, and was followed closely by Fullerton’s 122. A talented group of sophomores combined to account for 372 of CSC’s 459 yards through the air.
Kevin Coy, Jr, was the Eagles’ leading rusher with 33 yards. Scottsbluff native Brad Johnston, a redshirt freshman, gained 20 yards on six carries as the Eagle top three rushers all lay on the training table at some point during the game.
Tyler Lewis added seven including a blindside sack of CMU quarterback Eystin Salum for 10 yards in the fourth quarter.
Junior defensive back Zecharie James had six stops, two of which went for a loss, and also played a deep ball brilliantly for a pass breakup on the Mavericks’ first possession of the third quarter.
Sophomore defensive back DeAndre Barthwell got the only interception of the game for the Eagles, and returned it 24 yards in the second quarter.
Chadron State fell to 1-1 with the loss, while Colorado Mesa went to 2-0 on the season, both conference wins.
The Eagles travel to Western State next week. The Mountaineers are coming off lopsided losses to both Colorado Mesa and Adams State.