ST. GEORGE – Three passes from sophomore quarterback Cody Stevenson were intercepted and returned for Colorado Mesa touchdowns during a 48-point second-half barrage. The visiting Mavericks dealt Dixie State a 52-30 loss, in front of nearly 3,700 fans at Hansen Stadium on Saturday.
Dixie State fell to 0-2 on the season, despite holding a 22-10 halftime lead and out gaining CMU (1-1) in total yardage, 371-276.
Trent deBarga had two interception returns for touchdowns (34, 65) and Travis McRae added a 62-yard pick six in the momentum-swinging second half.
The Mavericks scored in the game’s first possession. Junior quarterback Robert Felberg scampered in from 13 yards out capping a snappy six-play, 60-yard drive in 1:19. CMU held onto the first quarter lead after Jameson Schultz pushed the point after attempt wide following Stevenson’s screen pass to Jesse Ence for a 22-yard score midway through the period.
Stevenson led the next scoring drive through 14 plays at the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second. The final five yards of the drive came courtesy of Stevenson’s feet, running into the end zone on the near side. DSC missed the subsequent two-point conversation, but led for the first time 12-7.
Colorado Mesa closed within two points, 12-10, on Caleb Pavy’s 38-yard field goal. The Red Storm built the lead to 22-10 heading into halftime capitalizing on a CMU fumble. Joe Don Duncan reeled in a TD from six yards and Schultz connected for a 50-yard field goal (the longest FG in DSC Division-II history).
In the second half, Dixie State’s mistakes became Mesa scoring opportunities. deBarga took the third play of the half back for a pick six and Will Halboth ran into the end zone from five yards out. The 14-point swing gave CMU the lead 24-22.
Both teams fumbled away chances midway through the third. The Red Storm grasped the lead for the last time at the 1:54 mark. Darren Carter made a nice grab right on the plane of the goal for a touchdown. Stevenson connected with Duncan on the two-point try for the 30-24 lead.
Colorado Mesa scored 28 points in the fourth quarter, with half coming from interceptions. McRae’s pick six put the Mavs up for good while deBarga’s second score made the tally 38-30.
The Mavericks made it a two-possession lead by scoring in an unusual way. Running back Jake Cimolino fumbled at the DSC 10-yard line. The pigskin bounced to the left and into the scooping hands of Felberg, who took it the remaining 10 yards on the ground. CMU added a final score with a 21-yard run from Jai Johnson.
Dixie State had the ball for nearly twice as long as the Mavs (38:31 to 20:29), but the quick scores off turnovers doomed the home squad.
Stevenson ended the night 24-for-48 for 344 yards. He threw for three touchdowns, but was picked four times. Duncan had 129 yards on seven grabs and Ence accounted for 110 total yards.
Chris Aragon and Cache Morgan each had nine tackles defensively. Morgan forced a fumble for the second straight game and tallied 151 kick-return yards.
Colorado Mesa defensive lineman Conner Wright had 12 tackles (11 solo), 7.5 tackles for loss, including six sacks.
The Red Storm opens Great Northwest Athletic Conference play next Saturday against Simon Fraser University (1-1, 0-1 GNAC). Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at Hansen Stadium.
NOTES: DSC set single-game records for longest field goal (50 yards, Schultz), total number of offensive plays (92), and most interceptions by an opponent (5)… Colorado Mesa (formerly Mesa State) took a 4-1 all-time series lead with the victory. The last time the two schools met was on October 6, 2007 – CMU won 38-13. In that game, CMU also intercepted five passes from Skyler Ence. None were returned for TDs that night.