This article can be read at its original location here.
RAPID CITY, SD — The South Dakota School of Mines football program’s home opener had everything.
New turf, a state of the art video board, a halftime dedication to commemorate all the renovations and upgrades to O’Harra Stadium, a big crowd — and most importantly, an impressive victory.
The Hardrockers defeated the Dixie State Trailblazers from St. George, Utah, 35-14, and earned not only their second win in a row, but also their first Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference victory as well.
The Hardrockers had an explosive offensive first quarter and backed it up in the second half with a solid defensive effort to shutout the visiting 0-2 Trailblazers. SD Mines set the pace with three first quarter touchdowns, another in the second quarter and a one final home run TD late in the game to seal the ‘W’.
“It was a great night under the lights at Dunham Field,” said Hardrocker football head coach Zach Tinker. “Big shout out to ‘Rocker Nation for bringing the JU-ICE and helping get us into the RMAC race with a win in our conference opener.”
The Hardrockers had little trouble setting the tone, scoring their first touchdown on their first possesion. An 11-play 75-yard drive was capped off by a three-yard run from senior running back Kevin Thompson.
After holding off Dixie State on its opening drive, the Hardrockers set themselves up nicely thanks to an impressive punt return from senior Isaiah Manley. Manley followed that up with an eight yard TD reception from junior quarterback Jake Sullivan with 7:26 remaining in the first quarter.
Dixie State finally answered the call when a their 10 play 74-yard drive ended with a touchdown on a 1-yard run from Anthony Reyes, as the visitors trailed 14-7.
Sullivan answered with a rushing touchdown with 2:35 to go in the first quarter on an eight yard scramble that found him in the end zone. He had great field position set up by senior Dorian Cowart on a 67 yard rushing burst.
Coward also got in on the first half offensive success when he dashed in for a TD at the 14:08 mark from eight yards.
Dixie State final scoring drive came toward the end of the half when Trailblazer QB Malik Watson hooked up with Orlando Wallace on a 17-yard scoring strike to make the score 28-14.
The last score of the game came at the end of the fourth quarter when Thompson broke one open, racing 51 yards for the final knockout blow.
Junior place kicker Robbie Jo Gerarden, who broke the record last week for career extra points added six more to his total Saturday and now has 94 total PAT’s as a Hardrocker.
SD Mines racked up 481 yards of total yards, netting 258 yards on the ground as the Hardrockers had two players rush for over 100 yards (Thompson, Cowart). They added 223 passing yards. Dixie State posted 387 total yards, 284 through the air and 103 on the ground. SD Mines average 5.5 yards on the ground and did not commit a turnover, while the Trailblazers had two interceptions on the night and averaged 3.2 yards per rush.
“Certainly we won the battle at the line of scrimmage on each side of the ball, rushing for over 250 yards and holding Dixie to just 103,” Tinker said. “Our run defense, our success in winning the turnover battle (2-0), and our strong performance on special teams was the winning formula for the Rockers tonight.
SD Mines had some pretty impressive individual numbers.
Sullivan finished the game completing 19-33 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown.
Thompson was the game’s top rusher, carrying the ball 27 times for 151 yards and two scores while Coward tallied 103 yards on 13 rushes and a score.
Manley finished with seven catches for 93 yards and added 46 yards on one punt return and 17 yards on one kickoff return.
The SD Mines defense played very well with five pass break ups, one sack and seven tackles for a loss. Seniors Blake Stone and Triston Brown along with freshman Antyjuan Rodriquez led the way with eight tackles each while senior Jordan Copeland had seven tackles and an interception that he returned 15 yards. Freshman Dominick Jackson was also credited with a pick that he ran back 31 yards.
“We had several players step up and accept the challenge when called upon tonight,” Tinker added.
With the 2-0 start to the season, the Hardrockers welcome CSU-Pueblo Saturday for M-Day under the lights at O’Harra Stadium for a 6 p.m. RMAC matchup.