It was another bumpy road for the Chadron State College football team while playing the Western Colorado Mountaineers in Gunnison on Saturday.
The Eagles scored on their first possession for the first time this season, but were behind 27-12 at halftime, tallied the next 20 points to take a 32-27 lead, only to lose 33-32 on a long pass play with 2:35 to play.
It was Chadron State’s fourth straight setback, and the latest of three consecutive heart-breakers that went down to the wire.
The Eagles made numerous big plays that netted plenty of fireworks, but they also had some droughts, were shorthanded in places and had a few snafus that created problems.
At least a half dozen CSC stalwarts saw little or no action because of injuries.
Bad snaps on punting situations were again a problem, helping the Mountaineers score their first two touchdowns. The Eagles also failed to add extra points after three of their five touchdowns, a disaster when the loss was by a single point.
“We’ve got to figure out how to put four quarters together and we’ve also been struggling to finish (the games),” said CSC Coach Jay Long.
Capped by a 56-yard pass, the Eagles went 86 yards in six plays to take a 6-0 lead on their first possession. Quarterback Dalton Holst threw the ball into a strong breeze to inside receiver Cole Thurness, who outran the defenders after catching the ball about 30 yards downfield.
Appearing to be off to a great start, the Eagles managed just two more first downs the remainder of the first half and trailed 27-12 at intermission.
Western opened its scoring with a 26-yard field goal by Chandler Davis midway in the first quarter.
CSC’s punting problems paved the way for Western to score its first two touchdowns. The initial punt went just nine yards, giving the Mountaineers possession at the Eagles’ 35. Five plays later, alternate tailback Deyvon Butler ran the last 15 yards to paydirt.
The next CSC punt was blocked. Western outside linebacker Darrious Gaines took the ball the final four yards to the end zone with 24 seconds left in the opening quarter.
The hosts moved ahead 24-6 with 9:48 remaining in the second period when freshman Josh Cummings scored on a six-yard burst after Butler had ripped off 28 yards on the previous play.
The Eagles’ offense continued to sputter, but a big break came their way when a pair of freshmen forced and cashed in on a Western fumble. Linebacker Joey Geil knocked the ball free and lineman Joel Carpenter carried it 44 yards to the end zone with 3:47 left before halftime.
As the half was winding down, Chandler Davis booted a 31-yard field goal for the Mountaineers, giving them a 27-12 margin.
Neither team managed a first down until nearly seven minutes had expired in the third quarter, but the Eagles finally caught fire. A 15-yard pass from Holst to tight end Colt Foster launched a 10-play, 78-yard drive that saw Holst run for 15 yards and then click on six straight passes, including a 14-yard touchdown toss to senior wide receiver Tevon Wright.
Chadron State also scored on its first possession of the fourth frame that was ignited by Holst’s 46-yard run, by far the largest of his career. Holst’s romp carried to the Mountaineers’ five, and he hit Thurness for a touchdown three plays later, cutting Western’s lead to 27-25.
The Eagles took the lead with 3:30 left to play. A 54-yard hookup between Holst and Wright was the big play. Freshman back Justin Cauley went the final yard on the next play, and another rookie, Colton Dolder, added the PAT.
Western retaliated with a big pass just 30 seconds later. Sophomore quarterback Connor Desch connected with redshirt freshman Malcolm Wesley on a 47-yard hookup that netted the winning TD.
“It came down to one play,” CSC Defensive Coordinator Craig Jersild said. “We’d played great the entire second half, hardly giving up anything. Then it happened. I hurt for the kids.”
The touchdown pass was preceded by a “targeting” call against the Eagles’ senior safety, Tyree Fryar, who was suspended from the game and replaced by a linebacker who has little pass coverage experience.
There was still 2:30 left on the clock when the Eagles fielded Western’s ensuing kickoff at the CSC 16. Knowing Chadron State had a long ways to go to even try a field goal, Todd Auer, the Mountaineers’ defensive coordinator who once had that position 17 years at CSC, blitzed about “brought the house” and sacked Holst three straight times to wrap up the outcome.
The Eagles outgained the hosts 401 to 318 yards. Holst was both the game’s leading rusher with 67 yards and passer with 256 while completing 21 of 36 attempts and three TDs. Thurness caught seven tosses for 100 yards. Wright caught five passes for 85.
Desch completed 10 of 18 passes for 147 yards and the game’s final touchdown.
First Downs 19 16
Total Net Yards 401 318
Rushes, Yards 34-145 48-171
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Passing Yards 256 147
Passing 21-36-0 10-18-0
Return Yards 132 74
Punts, Yards 7-27.9 7-36.4
Fumbles, Lost 1-0 1-1
Chadron State 6 6 7 13 ---32
Western Colorado 17 10 0 6 ---33
CSC--Cole Thurness 56 pass from Dalton Holst (pass failed).
WCU--Chandler Davis 26 field goal.
WCU--Deyvon Butler 15 run (Davis kick)
WCU--Darrious Gaines 11 blocked punt return (Davis kick)
WCU--Josh Cummings 6 run (Davis kick)
CSC--Joel Carpenter 47 fumble return (Colton Dolder kick)
WCU--Davis 31 field goal
CSC--Tevon Wright 14 pass from Dalton Holst (Dolder kick)
CSC--Thurness 6 pass from Holst (pass failed).
CSC--Justin Cauley 1 run (Dolder kick)
WCU--Malcom Wesley 47 pass from Connor Desch (run failed).
Rushing: CSC--Dalton Holst 8-67, Stevann Brown 12-60, Justin Cauley 11-24, Priest Jennings 2-2, team 1-minus 8. WCU--Ty Leyba 8-44, Deyvon Butler 5-43, Josh Cummings 14-42, Connor Desch 14-39, Malcolm Wesley 4-6, team 2-minus 4.
Passing: CSC--Dalton Holst 21-36-0, 256 yards, 3 TDs. WCU--Connor Desch 10-18-0, 147 yards, 1 TD.
Receiving: CSC--Cole Thurness 7-100, Tevon Wright 5-85, Colt Foster 3-36, Chad Mikelson 2-17, Ethan Fray 2-5, Matt Vargas 1-8, Brandon Fullerton 1-5. WCU--Xander Witt 2-36, James Bryant 2-19, Elijah Gillespie 2-11, Malcolm Wesley 1-47, Josh Cummings 1-25, Kai Emmsley 1-5, Bruce Jones 1-4.
Kickoff Returns: CSC--Stevann Brown 3-64. WSU--Malcolm Wesley 3-60. Punt Returns: CSC--Cole Thurness 1-5. WCU--Darrious Gaines 1-19, Josh Nelson 3-minus 5. Fumble Returns: CSC--Joel Carpenter 1-47.
Tackles: CSC--Jeremiah Gutierrez 8-3, 11; Tyree Fryar 7-2, 9; Noah Kerchal 4-5, 9; Tyler Lewis 3-6, 9; Tyler Lewis, 5-0, 5. WCU--Lane Farris 5-5, 10; Tim Mullin, 6-2, 8; Desmond Marfizo 3-5, 8; Dom Fletch 3-3, 6.