ST. GEORGE An opening drive full of promise collapsed into a night of frustration at Hansen Stadium for the Dixie State Rebels as they fell to Western Oregon 31-7 Saturday night.
Dixie State opened the game with a stop defensively and then put together an impressive offensive drive. The Wolves (7-2) seemed stunned as the Rebels marched 68 yards in 10 plays and took a 7-0 lead on a quarterback sneak by Nate Lewis.
But that was the only long drive of the night for Dixie State as Western Oregon tied the game moments later and then pushed out to a 17-7 edge by halftime.
"That opening drive is a glimpse of how we can play," Dixie State head coach Ron Haun said. "But Western Oregon is a very good football team better than us. They had a great year last year and had pretty much everyone back, and it showed."
The Rebels were hurt by a couple of key injuries. Running back Adam Wells is out for the season with a leg injury and defensive lineman Wayne Alofipo left in the first quarter with what's believed to be a broken leg.
"We were missing some guys, but I thought Nate Lewis did a pretty decent job at quarterback in his first start," Haun said. "He's inexperienced and made some bad decisions, but he wasn't bad."
Nate Lewis, replacing turnover-prone Skyler Ence, hit 19 of his 28 pass attempts for 181 yards. But the Rebels had no running game (9 yards on 33 attempts), and a tired defense allowed 400 yards of offense to the Wolves.
Early in the third quarter, Jayson Malafau gave the Dixie State fans a glimmer of hope. With the score 17-7, Malafau rocked Western Oregon receiver Isaiah Smith, forcing a fumble near midfield.
But the Wolves defense stopped Dixie State on fourth-and-short at the 27-yard line to end the threat. Western Oregon then score two late touchdowns to put the game away.
Ence responded to his new role of receiver by catching five passes for 57 yards. Kyser Christensen caught three balls for 42 yards for the Rebels (3-7).
Tyler Wilson rushed for 112 yards and Mark Thorson passed for 243 yards and three touchdowns for the Wolves, who will be a league rival of Dixie State's next season in the new Great Northwest Athletic Conference.