SPEARFISH — As talented as Colorado School of Mines is, the Black Hills State University football team had to be at its best on both sides of the football to stay with the Orediggers Saturday at Lyle Hare Stadium.
The Yellow Jackets were not and struggled early in many offensive possessions, and couldn’t get off the field on third down. The result was a 42-20 Mines win that saw most of the scoring in the first half.
“We know what kind of team Colorado Mines is. They are an explosive offensive team,” BHSU coach John Reiners said. “We knew we had to answer early and often, and obviously we didn’t do that.”
Instead, the Jackets again fell behind early, trailing 14-0 at the end of the first quarter, and went into the locker room down 35-14 after giving up a touchdown on the last play of the first half.
In last week’s 45-8 loss to Chadron State College, BHSU trailed 35-0 at halftime.
It all started on the first possession of the game, as Black Hills State drove to the Mines 30, but sophomore Jacob Parks missed a 47-yard field goal.
“I thought we moved the ball fairly well, and got down in scoring range. But you have to be able to put points on the board with a field goal, or we have to be able to convert to get ourselves into a closer field goal,” Reiners said. “To come away with no points on that drive is disappointing. That is something we have to continue to impress on our guys."
Reiners said that for much of the game the Jackets were not efficient on first and second down, often putting themselves in third and long situations. In fact, BHSU had 3rd-and-10 eight times in that first half.
“It’s little things, like dropped balls on what would be a 5-yard gain. It just makes play calling a little bit better,” he said.
Mines, behind Indiana State graduate transfer quarterback Isaac Harker and All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference receiver Brody Oliver, converted 8-of-10 3rd-down plays in the first half, keeping the five touchdown scoring drives in play.
“We were getting killed (on third down),” Reiners said. “We have to be able to get those guys off of the field.”
Mines scored on its first two possessions when Harker recovered his own fumble in the end zone, and on a 12-yard touchdown run by running back Cameron Mayberry.
BHSU cut the lead in half early in the second on a 9-yard touchdown run by junior back Payten Gilmore, capping a 10-play, 83-yard drive. But the Orediggers responded with two impressive TD passes from Harker to Oliver — from 17 and 60 yards.
Still, Black Hills State was in the game when Isaac Jefferson caught a nice 12-yard TD pass from senior quarterback Ryan Hommel, again cutting the lead in half with 44 seconds remaining until the break.
But unable to put pressure on Hacker again, he drove down the field and hit Oliver on a 35-yard pass to the 1-yard line with just five seconds remaining. Mines took a 21-point lead into the locker room when Harker took it in for the score.
That, along with failing to recover the fumble in the end zone, changed the complex of the game in the second half.
“They drive all of the way down and get that late touchdown after a long pass (Oliver), which we needed to be bracketing him. Those things are back breakers,” Reiners said .
The Orediggers only score in the second half came on a 29-yard TD pass from Harker to Riley Hoff on a 4th-and-11 play.
BHSU’s second-half score followed on a 17-yard pass from Hommel to Gilmore with 12:06 remaining in the third.
While the Orediggers dominated, Mines coach Gregg Brandon said his players were a little disappointed that they played a little sloppy in spurts on both sides of the football in the second half.
“But we did control the game. We ran through it consistently. We always want to try to be better week-after-week, and we’re going to have to next week, because we have Pueblo,” he said.
Harker was 27-of-40 passing for 425 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He also scored twice on the ground.
Oliver, who had 10 receptions and five touchdowns in the win over Adams State in the opener, had seven catches for 174 yards and two scores against the Jackets.
“He’s a special player,” Brandon said of Oliver. “We’re always thinking that somebody is going to try to do some things to take away, and nobody has been able to do that. We’re going to keep going to him."
Hommel was 20-of-40 passing for 172 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also ran for 84 yards on nine rushes. Eriq Swiftwater caught five passes for 67 yards (and a 2-point conversion pass), while Gilmore had 43 yards on 14 carries and one score.
The Jackets will look for their first win of the season next Saturday at Adams State, while Mines hosts unbeaten and 12th- ranked Colorado-State Pueblo.