ST. GEORGE Defense ruled the night in Hansen Stadium. Dixie State's defense was just a little bit better than Humboldt State's. All three of the Rebels' scores came off turnovers as Dixie State defeated the Lumberjacks 17-10 Saturday night.
"We needed that win bad," head coach Ron Haun said. "The defense played well, and the offense didn't do anything stupid to hurt us."
Jayson Malafua opened the game with a 49-yard interception for a touchdown and Teddy Owens sealed the victory with a fourth-down tackle of Richard Perkins with less than two minutes to play. In between those defensive gems, the Dixie State defense forced three fumbles, recorded three sacks and allowed just 267 yards.
After Malafua's defensive touchdown in the first quarter, the Rebels scored again after recovering a Humboldt State fumble. Quarterback Skyler Ence led the 49-yard drive into the end zone and capped it off with a 9-yard strike to slotback Judd Thompson, who was playing in his first game in a month after a hip injury.
"That was strange for our kids to have that 14-point lead," Haun said. "It was definitely new territory. But that's part of learning how to win."
Humboldt pulled to within 14-7 early in the second quarter on a 1-yard TD run by Brian Hildebrand. That score was set up by an Ence fumble and was the capper on a 21-yard drive for the Lumberjacks.
Dixie State pushed the lead to 17-7 with 15 seconds left in the first half on a Zach Manning field goal. The Rebels got the 3-pointer after a Lumberjack punt was blocked by Kevin Wilks and also recovered by the big guy.
With the wind blustering up to 40 mph, the Rebels decided to take the wind in the fourth quarter. Humboldt pulled to within 17-10 after calling a time out late in the third quarter to be able to kick the field goal and the kickoff with the wind.
In the final stanza, Humboldt twice got it into Dixie State territory only to be denied.
On the Lumberjacks' final possession they faced a fourth-and-19. That's when they tried a hook-and-lateral play that almost worked.
With 90 seconds left in the game, Hildebrand completed the pass to Corey Anderson, who pitched the ball to playmaker Perkins. Perkins sprinted for the sideline and the first-down marker. But Owens recognized the play and forced Perkins down and out of bounds three yards short of the first down. Ence then kneeled out the clock for the Rebels' third win of the season.
"We knew we could beat this team," Haun said. "We should have beaten them out there (in California), but this win was very important for us."
The Rebels, 3-5, got 125 yards rushing from Adam Wells. In two games vs. the Lumberjacks, Wells has nearly 400 yards on the ground. Dixie State hosts Azusa Pacific (Calif.) next week for the Rebels' homecoming game.