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RAPID CITY, SD — It was a tale of two halves Saturday night during a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference battle between the South Dakota School of Mines Hardrockers and the No. 18 CSU-Pueblo ThunderWolves.
The first half saw successful scoring drives by both programs while the second half was a great matchup between two solid defenses.
In the end, it was CSU-Pueblo that was able to come away with the 36-14 victory at O’Harra Stadium in Rapid City during SD Mines’ M-Day homecoming game.
“It was a great atmosphere for football at Dunham Field,” said Hardrocker football head coach Zach Tinker. “We did not force turnovers and turned it over four times on our own which was the difference.”
The ThunderWolves scored two touchdowns in the first quarter and matched that output in the second quarter, and tacked on two field goals in the fourth quarter to seal the win. SD Mines earned a touchdown in the first quarter and added another at the end of the second quarter to keep things competitive throughout the game.
After CSUP scored on their opening drive on a 12 yard TD run from Austin Micci, the Hardrockers answered with a nine-play 74 yard drive capped off on a nine-yard touchdown from junior quarterback Jake Sullivan. Junior placekicker Robbie Jo Gerarden‘s PAT was good to knot the game, 7-7, with 7:28 remaining in the first.
CSUP rattled off 21 straight points, a touchdown toward the end of the first period and then another to start the second quarter –both courtesy of Marche Dennard (one-yard and two-yard runs). The ThunderWolves added another going on a 96-yard drive finished off on a TD strike to Sammie Long from QB Brandon Edwards, to go up, 28-7.
SD Mines got back on the scoreboard after an impressive quick six-play 65-yard drive. Sullivan connected with senior wide receiver Isaiah Manley with just four second left in the quarter. Gerarden tacked on another extra point and the Hardrockers went into halftime trailing 28-14.
In the second half, SD Mines defense came up big with several key plays the keep CSU-Pueblo out of the end zone. The Hardrockers had several opportunities to close the gap on the visitors offensively, but costly turnovers kept them behind the eight ball.
CSUP’s Mitchell Carter hit 22- and 32-yard field goals in the fourth quarter to close out the scoring.
On paper it was a pretty balanced matchup. The ThunderWolves finished with 462 yards of total offense while SD Mines posted 402 yards. The Hardrockers had 300 yards through the air and 102 on the ground. The ThunderWolves had 235 on the ground and 227 through the air. Both teams posted 28 first downs on the night.
Sullivan finished with 300 yards passing, making good on 26-40 passes with a touchdown, three interceptions and three sacks. Sullivan found seven different receivers in the game.
Senior Kevin Thompson led the way on the ground, carrying the ball 15 times for 50 yards while fellow senior had 48 yards on seven carries.
Defensively, senior Blake Stone recorded 13 total tackles on the night, including one for a loss. Fellow senior E.J. DeVeaux added eight tackles, one for a loss and two pass breakups. Senior Jordan Copeland and sophomore Adrian Perez also posted a tackle for a loss each.
The Hardrockers posted their first loss of the season and are now 2-1 on the season and 1-1 in the conference while CSU-Pueblo improved to 2-1 on the season and 2-0 in the RMAC.
SD Mines travels up the Spearfish next weekend for the 133 meeting against the Black Hills State Yellow Jackets in the Black Hills Brawl, Battle For The Homestake Trophy. The game starts at 12 p.m. (MST).
“We were out-played in the red zone which led to our defeat tonight,” Tinker said. “We will need to perform better in all three phases when we get our opportunity to earn the Homestake Trophy next weekend in Spearfish.”