Kaleb Center, Sports Information Director
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — For the second week in a row, the Chadron State College football team came from behind to pull out a pulsating Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference victory, this time on the road while upsetting No. 14 rated Colorado Mesa, 38-34, on Saturday afternoon.
The Eagles owned a 14-10 first quarter lead, but never led again until going ahead 31-27 early in the fourth period, only to see Mesa score again midway in the final frame.
However, the Eagles answered with a 72-yard drive in just five plays to regain the lead with 5:13 to play, forced the Mavericks to punt on their next possession and clinched the verdict when safety Tyree Fryar intercepted Mesa’s pass in the end zone with 28 seconds remaining.
Both teams are now 3-1 for the season.
With sophomore quarterback Dalton Holst completing 26 of 40 passes for 409 yards and the running backs gaining 236 yards, the Eagles rolled up 645 total net yards, their sixth highest total all-time.
Each of Chadron State’s scoring drives—five touchdowns and a field goal—covered at least 67 yards.
Mesa also moved the ball, amassing 483 yards. The teams’ 1,128 cumulative yards also is the sixth highest ever in a game involving the Eagles.
Both quarterbacks threw three touchdown passes, but the Eagles also got two short touchdown blasts from senior Kevin Coy.
Chadron State head coach Jay Long called the game “a wild, up and down affair,” similar to what he said a week ago when the Eagles tallied 21 points in the fourth period to rally past Fort Lewis 31-21.
“By winning the fourth quarter again today, we found a way to win again,” Long said. “We played hard and executed well the entire game. We knew we had to control the line of scrimmage and we did that. That’s why we got so many yards and also sacked their quarterback five times.”
Mesa, ranked 14th by D2football.com, threw the first punch. Quarterback Eystin Salum, last year’s RMAC Offensive Player of the Year, connected with his favorite target, Peter Anderson, on a 75-yard pass for a touchdown on the game’s first play.
The pair would hook up 11 times for 266 yards before Fryar’s pass theft preserved the Eagles’ four-point victory.
Chadron State also had plenty of clout when it got the ball. After the Mavericks’ opening bomb, the Eagles promptly drove 77 yards in 12 plays to tie the score on Coy’s one-yard, fourth-down plunge.
Coy opened the march with 15- and 16-yard jaunts and Holst hit wide receiver Tevon Wright on a 31-yard pass that carried to the Mesa five.
The Salum-Anderson tandem soon struck for 34 yards to set up a 38-yard field goal by Lucas Ruiz-Diaz on Mesa’s next possession. However, just two and a half minutes later Wright caught Holst’s pass of about 25 yards, broke a tackle and turned it into a 38-yard touchdown that put the Eagles ahead 14-10 with 3:24 left in the opening period.
Mesa did all the scoring in the second period to take a 24-14 halftime lead.
Salum and Anderson initially struck from 45 yards away and Salum also threw a six-yard TD to Alex Powell shortly after Mesa defensive end Pharoah Davis snatched the ball from Holst’s grasp an carried it 35 yards to the CSC 25. That proved to be the Eagles’ only turnover.
The longer the shootout continued, the more the Eagles dominated. They outgained the Mavericks 367 to 230 yards and outscored them 24-10 in the second half.
Chadron State took the second half kickoff 67 yards in eight plays, with Holst’s 29-yard pass to classmate Cole Thurness netting the touchdown.
The teams then traded field goals with Chadron State’s Carson Reed booting an 18-yarder and Ruiz-Diaz hitting from 25 yards away. The Eagles tried a 37-yard field goal as the third quarter was ending, but a low snap from center foiled the effort as the third quarter was ending with Mesa ahead 27-24.
The Eagles dodged a couple of bullets on their first possession of the fourth quarter, fumbling the ball twice, but recovering both of them. The nine-play drive covered 75 yards with a 31-yard Holst-to-Wright pass and tailback Stevann Brown’s 19-yard run setting up Coy’s three-yard burst into the end zone. Reed’s PAT put CSC ahead 31-27.
The Mavericks responded with their own 13-play, 65-yard march that Salum cashed in by going the final three yards, giving his team a 34-31 edge.
Chadron State didn’t waste much time regaining the lead, going 72 yards in five plays. The first and last plays were the big ones. Holst hooked up with Brandon Fullerton for a 25-yard gain and then connected with Jackson Dickerson, who broke a tackle attempt en route to completing the 35-yard play.
Just over five minutes remained. Mesa picked up one first down on its next possession, but was forced to punt. Coy carried three straight times for a CSC first down and also took two minutes off the clock.
With just a minute left to play, the Eagles punted. Salum and Anderson did their thing again, teaming up on a 37-yard pass for a first down at the Chadron State 28. Salum then completed an eight-yard pass, but his next pass went directly to CSC’s Fryar in the end zone to seal the verdict.
Saturday’s game was the second against Mesa in which Holst posted some incredible numbers. A year ago in Chadron, he completed 41 of 70 passes for 450 yards against the Mavericks, but none of them went for touchdowns during Colorado team’s 26-6 victory.
Holst said after Saturday’s triumph that both his receivers and offensive line made him look good.
“The receivers did an incredible job of getting open today and the line wore out the Mesa defense, particularly when we were quick and hurrying to get the next play off,” the quarterback noted.
Dickerson caught nine passes for 93 yards, Wright grabbed five for 137, Fullerton had four catches for 71 and Thurness four for 52 for the Eagles.
Brown led the running game with 13 carries for 118 yards, 81 if them in the second half, while Coy gained 77 yards on 18 attempts to go with his two TDs.
Freshman Pailate Makokona led Mesa’s ground game with 15 carries for 73 yards. No one other than Anderson had more than four receptions or gained more than 32 yards on pass plays.
Long noted the Eagles were without both of their starting cornerbacks, DeAndre Barthwell and Demetrius McFadden, Saturday because of injuries they sustained against Fort Lewis last week. But he said secondary coach Craig Jersild did a masterful job of using underclassmen to contain Mesa’s passing game as well as they did.
CSC linebacker Tyler Lewis was the game’s leading tackler with 12, including 10 solos.