GLENDORA, Calif. – Late in the game against Azusa Pacific, Dixie State’s offense was just a little too efficient.
Down 20-13 with under 3 minutes to go, DSU scored the tying TD in 41 seconds, then watched as the Cougars roared down the field and won the game as time expired with a Jamie Cacciatore field goal. The 23-20 heartbreaker sends the Red Storm to their sixth loss of the year, assuring them of their eighth straight losing season since moving from the NJCAA to NCAA Division II.
With just 2:32 remaining in the game, Dixie quarterback Griff Robles had to guide Dixie State 69 yards to tie the score with GNAC conference leader Azusa Pacific. It only took Robles two completions to get the yardage, the second a 44-yard strike to running back Joel Davis. With a Dillon Bishoff extra point, the Red Storm had tied the game at 20-20. But only 41 seconds came off the clock, which left the Cougars just enough time to drive down for the winning field goal.
APU quarterback Dasmen Stewart had 1:46 and three timeouts to get into field goal range from the Cougars own 41-yard line. Two passes and four carries from GNAC leading rusher Terrell Watson got the Cougars to Dixie’s 7-yard line. APU called a timeout with 3 seconds to go. Dixie State coach Scott Brumfeld called three consecutive timeouts to freeze Cougar kicker Cacciatore, but to no avail as the winning field goal split the uprights, giving APU the narrow victory.
The game had an unexpected beginning as the defenses dominated the first half in a game between offensive powerhouses. After a scoreless first quarter, Dixie went into halftime with a 6-3 lead on a touchdown reception by All-American tight end Joe Don Duncan. A field goal by Cacciatore on APU’s final possession of the second quarter cut Dixie’s lead in half.
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Dixie State came out in the third quarter and scored on its opening drive. Robles drove the offense 81 yards, culminating in a 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mitch Frei. Dixie’s defense continued stellar play in the third quarter, limiting APU to another Cacciatore field goal and a punt on the Cougars’ two possessions. The Red Storm held a 13-6 lead going into the fourth quarter.
In the critical fourth quarter, Dixie’s first possession was a three- and-out. APU took over its first possession on the Dixie 47-yard line. The defense again held APU to a field goal, but was called for an offside penalty on the play, giving the Cougars a first down on the Dixie 5-yard line. On the following play, Watson rushed in for the touchdown and APU had tied the score at 13.
The Cougar defense held on Dixie’s next possession forcing a Red Storm punt at midfield. Stewart drove the Cougars 81 yards in 11 plays, taking a 20-13 lead on a 3-yard dive by running back Ronald Douglas with 2:36 remaining, setting up the game’s frenetic finish.
Robles completed 19 of 32 passes for 263 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He also led the Red Storm in rushing yards, gaining 74 yards on 17 carries. Davis rushed for 57 yards and caught 3 passes for 50 yards and a touchdown. Frei led all receivers with 86 yards on 6 receptions and a touchdown. Duncan had 5 receptions and 45 yards to go with his touchdown. Wide receiver Randon Willard had 67 yards on 4 receptions.
The victory gave Azusa Pacific the outright GNAC season championship with a record of 8-2, 8-1 in the conference. The Cougars will finish the season traveling to Simon Fraser University next week.
The loss drops Dixie State to 4-6, 4-5 in the GNAC. The Red Storm will host Central Washington University in the final game of the season next week at Hansen Stadium. In a similar game to Saturday’s loss, the Storm lost to CWU by a field goal with one second remaining after leading most of the game. DSU has never beaten the Wildcats, but a win Saturday would give the Red Storm their most victories since going D-II. DSU won four games in 2008 and 2009.
Stats via DSU Athletics: APU 23, DSU 20
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