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COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Hardrockers hope to keep offense rolling on homecoming weekend

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South Dakota Mines' Jeremiah Bridges attempts to get out of the grips of Truman State's Ben Thomas in the first quarter Sept. 10 at O'Harra Stadium.

South Dakota Mines opened RMAC play last weekend with an impressive 31-17 win over Colorado Mesa in Grand Junction, Colorado.

The Hardrockers amassed 349 yards of total offense and outscored the Mavericks 24-7 in the second half to start conference play on the right foot. 

Now, SD Mines aims to continue its strong start to the season against New Mexico Highlands on homecoming weekend at O’Harra Stadium.

Series history

South Dakota Mines is 4-1 all-time against New Mexico Highlands and holds a two-game winning streak in the series dating back to 2018. In the last meeting between the two squads, the Hardrockers defeated the Cowboys 40-17 on Nov. 6, 2021 in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Last time out

Last week, the Hardrockers defeated Colorado Mesa 31-17, while the Cowboys knocked off Fort Lewis 27-3.

Scouting New Mexico Highlands

New Mexico Highlands enters this weekend with a 1-1 record on the season behind the leadership of first-year head coach Ron Hudson.

After opening the season with a 34-18 road loss to Eastern New Mexico on Sept. 1, it bounced back last Saturday against Fort Lewis.

The Cowboys have outscored their opponents 45-37 through their first two contests. 

NM Highlands averages 353.5 yards of total offense per game in a balanced attack, as the team averages 178.5 passing yards per game and 175 rushing yards per game.

At quarterback, Michael Jackson has completed 31 of 59 passes for 336 yards, four touchdowns and has yet to throw an interception. 

Jackson’s primary target is C.J. Sims, who has caught 14 passes for a team high 135 yards and one touchdown.

Malachi Rango anchors the rushing attack with 28 carries for 188 yards but Shawntay Mills has scored the only two NM Highlands rushing touchdowns of the season.

Defensively, the Cowboys have allowed 325 yards per game with the bulk, 241 yards per game, of yardage coming through the air. NM Highlands has yet to force a turnover on defense.

Linebacker Chris Calhoun leads the team with 13 total tackles, including 11 solo tackles. Highlands has sacked opponents five times for a loss of 31 yards.

Scouting SD Mines

South Dakota Mines enters the weekend riding high after its impressive win over Colorado Mesa last weekend.

The Hardrockers enter the contest 2-1 overall and 1-0 in RMAC play thanks to explosive play on offense. SD Mines enters averaging 467.3 yards of total offense per game and 384.6 passing yards per game.

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South Dakota Mines' Jayden Johannsen makes his way downfield while under pressure from Truman State defenders Sept. 10 on Dunham Field at O'Harra Stadium.

Quarterback Jayden Johannsen enters the weekend with a 164.13 QBR. The redshirt sophomore has completed 63 of 99 passes for 957 yards and seven touchdowns with a pair of interceptions. He also leads the team in rushing yards with 29 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown.

Johannsen’s primary target, Jeremiah Bridges, garnered RMAC Offensive Player of the Week honors for his performance against Colorado Mesa. The senior wide receiver caught eight passes for 164 yards and three touchdowns against the Mavericks. 

Bridges leads the RMAC in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns with 22 catches for 462 yards and six touchdowns on the season. He also leads all of Division II in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

Defensively the Hardrockers have limited opponents to 21.33 points per game but have allowed 335.7 yards per game.

Casey Knutsen leads Mines with 20 total tackles and 15 solo tackles on the season. 

The Hardrockers have sacked opposing passers 11 times for a loss of 83 yards and Kyante Christian leads the team with two sacks for 21 yards.

Keys to the game

In SD Mines’ only loss this season, to Truman State in Week 2, it fell into a hole early and trailed 13-0 with 9:21 left in the opening quarter. 

The Hardrockers got off to a slow start as well against the Mavericks last week but turned on the jets in the second half, out scoring their opponent 24-7 in the second half.

To take advantage of Saturday’s homecoming crowd the Hardrockers need to get off to a fast start offensively and avoid early turnovers to keep the crowd in the game.

The Hardrockers are 2-0 when they do not lose the turnover battle, but fell to the Bulldogs when Mines threw two interceptions and lost a fumble without causing a turnover of their own.

SD Mines has only forced one turnover on the year with a forced fumble against Mesa last weekend. Winning the turnover margin on Saturday is essential for SD Mines to remain unbeaten in RMAC play.

Kickoff for the matchup between NM Highlands and SD Mines is set for 2 p.m. Saturday at O’Harra Stadium.

Contact Alex Dodd at ADodd@rapidcityjournal.com

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