ST. GEORGE – Somewhere hovering over the intense atmosphere at Hansen Stadium on Saturday evening were lingering thoughts of last year’s 56-0 shutout at the hands of the Western Oregon Wolves. Also lingering was a nine-game losing streak dating back to October of 2011.
Those elements became forgotten history – quickly.
Behind a stellar defensive and special teams effort that forced six Wolves turnover, Dixie State opened Great Northwest Athletic Conference play with a 24-10 win over Western Oregon in front of 3,855 fans at Hansen Stadium.
The Red Storm (1-1, 1-0 GNAC) amassed 352 yards of total offense, while holding WOU (0-2, 0-1) to 239 yards including just 67 yards in the second half. DSC never trailed during the game.
Turnovers, which killed Dixie State in week one at Adams State, sparked the Storm’s offensive output. After Cache Morgan (West Jordan, UT/West Jordan) returned an intercepted pass from Cody VonAppen and returned it 58 yards to the WOU 16-yard line, senior quarterback Griff Robles (Spanish Fork, UT/Spanish Fork) found receiver Conor Sklarsky (Norco, CA/Notre Dame) wide open in the end zone for a touchdown. The completion marked the first DSC score inside the Red Zone in 2012.
Western Oregon responded in the second quarter with an 11-play, 63-yard drive. Kelly Morgan booted a field goal from 39 yards to cut the lead to 7-3.
The subsequent Dixie State drive sputtered, but the Red Storm gained a reprieve on special teams. Jake Duncan (Corona, CA/Notre Dame) stripped the ball from Lucas Gonsalve, and Nick Largent (Escalon, CA/Escalon) recovered at the Western eight, setting up first and goal. Six plays later, Michael Meyers connected from 24 yards for a field goal and a 10-3 lead.
Western Oregon tied the game with a wide-open pass connection from VonAppen (6-18, 105, TD, 2 INT) to running back Joe Harris.
After the half, the Red Storm seized control. The defense forced two quick three-and-outs. DSC drove seven plays for 77 yards culminating in Robles running through a seam for a 22-yard touchdown. Dixie State out gained the Wolves in the third quarter 136 to minus-8.
The Wolves looked to respond, but Tana Woodard (Honolulu, H/McKinley) recovered a fumble on the first carry from the line of scrimmage. That turnover set up DSC’s final scoring drive. Sophomore quarterback Kaleo Nawahine (Fruitland, ID/Fruitland) fired a touchdown to Zack Fox (Spanish Fork. UT/Spanish Fork HS) for 23 yards increasing the lead to 24-10.
Defensive stops and turnovers highlighted the end of the third quarter and the whole fourth quarter. Nick Porrazzo (Rescue. CA/Ponderosa) picked off a pass in the next drive after DSC’s final score. Matt Tanuvasa (Laie, HI/Southridge) forced Haynes into another fumble in the fourth, recovered by K.J. Boyer (St. George, UT/Pine View). The final nail came under the four-minute mark, when Daniel Moffett (Kaysville, UT/Davis) picked off Trey Shimabukuro and returned it 19 yards.
Junior running back A.J. Johnson (Chino Hills, CA/Chino Hills) tallied the first 100-yard rushing performance by a tailback since October 2010. Johnson carried the ball 19 times for 119 yards.
Robles closed the night 11-of-33 for 110 yards and a touchdown. He added 42 yards rushing on 12 carries. Nawahine finished 3-for-7 with a TD and a pick.
Senior safety Cameron Greene (Brigham CIty. UT/Box Elder) led all DSC defenders with six tackles. Duncan, Tanuvasa, Sean Gibson (Herriman, UT/Riverton) and Willie Townsend (Bennetsville, SC/Manlolane County) each added four tackles.
Dixie State hits the road for a GNAC test at Azusa Pacific on Sept. 15. Kickoff from Citrus Stadium is set for 7 p.m. Mountain (6 p.m. Pacific).
John Potter is the Assistant Media Relations Director at Dixie State College. He can be reached at [email protected]