The Paw Print
The Adams State College Grizzlies jumped out to an early 10-point lead against the No. 16 Colorado School of Mines Orediggers at Campbell Field on Saturday, but couldn’t find a way to hold that lead and notch the upset victory, losing by the final score of 24-17.
Many expected junior quarterback and Alamosa native Clay Garcia to be the hero for the Orediggers, but sophomore running back Dan Palmer came up big with 100 yards on 25 carries to go along with four catches for 88 yards, while also scoring all three Oredigger touchdowns. The final touchdown, a 6-yard carry near the end of the third quarter, proved to be the difference maker in the game.
After forcing the high-scoring Orediggers to punt on their opening drive, the Grizzlies took their first drive of the game 69 yards over nine plays to establish a lead early in the first quarter, scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run by freshman defensive end Chase Rogers as a part of the Grizzlies’ goal line formation on offensive.
Sophomore kicker David Van Voris added the extra point after Rogers’ first career touchdown to give the Grizzlies a 7-0 lead with 9:47 to go in opening quarter.
The Grizzlies forced the Orediggers to punt on their next possession as well and sustained another long drive on offensive, executing 10 plays but only gaining 46 yards before being forced to settle for a career-best 51-yard field goal by Van Voris that extended the lead to 10-0 with less than five minutes to go in the first quarter.
The high-powered Oredigger offense, which leads the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference in offense averaging more than 478 yards per game and scores nearly 38 points per game, found their rhythm and moved the ball with ease on their next drive.
Garcia led the Orediggers on a drive spanning 70 yards over nine plays that was capped off by Palmer’s 4-yard touchdown run that brought the score to 10-7 with less than a minute to go in the first quarter.
Sophomore kick returner Scott Kellogg returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards to set the Grizzlies up with excellent field position at the Orediggers’ 32-yard line, but they managed only one first down before three consecutive incompletions by sophomore quarterback Trevor Eggleston forced the Grizzlies to settle for a 39-yard field goal attempt by Van Voris.
The attempt was blocked by redshirt freshman linebacker Alex Laudenslager to hold the lead to three points going into the second quarter.
Garcia scrambled for 29 yards on the opening play of the second quarter, and after an incompletion on the next play, connected with Palmer on a 41-yard touchdown, his only passing touchdown on the day.
Suddenly, the Orediggers had a 14-10 lead less than a minute into the second quarter, and the game was wide open once again.
The defenses then stepped up for each team, holding the opposing offenses scoreless for the majority of the second quarter.
The Orediggers forced four punts and recovered a fumble by sophomore running back Thomas Brown to thwart the Grizzlies’ offensive attack, and the Grizzly defense responded in almost equal fashion.
Junior safety Will Naas picked off Garcia, forced two punts, and sophomore defensive back James Ackel recovered a Garcia fumble deep in Grizzly territory late in the half to keep the Orediggers from extending their lead until freshman kicker Paul McVay nailed a 31-yard field goal attempt with three seconds remaining to bring the score to 17-10 Orediggers entering the half.
The defensive battle carried into the second half, as the Grizzlies were forced to punt on their opening possession, and Ackel caused a fumble by sophomore wide receiver Cody Renken that was recovered by sophomore defensive back Jeremiah Van Valkenburg, ending the Orediggers’ first possession of the half.
The Grizzlies were unable to capitalize on the turnover and were forced to go three-and-out. However, junior punter Dustin Bolt pinned the Orediggers deep in their own territory with a 59-yard punt that was downed at the 5-yard line.
Garcia’s first pass fell incomplete, and an 8-yard completion to Renken, who finished with 91 yards on eight catches, provided the Orediggers with a little breathing room, but the Grizzly defense stepped up yet again and forced their fourth turnover of the game as sophomore linebacker Nathan Wiggins picked off Garcia and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown. The point after by Van Voris tied the game at 17-all with 10:37 to go in the third quarter.
The Grizzlies continued their relentless pursuit on defense and forced another punt by the Orediggers, and appeared to be on their way to regaining the lead with a successful 12-play, 76-yard drive, including a huge 34-yard completion from Eggleston to junior wide receiver Delton Prescott Jr. that set the Grizzlies up in the redzone.
Prescott Jr. set career-highs of 10 catches and 97 yards.
However, the Orediggers stalled the Grizzly offense and forced them to settle for a 26-yard field goal attempt by Van Voris that was blocked by senior defense lineman Kaleb Anderson to keep the score tied.
The Orediggers capitalized on their second blocked kick of the game, as Garcia hit junior wide receiver Tom Kastens on a 35-yard completion as a part of a 10-play, 80-yard drive that was capped off by Palmer’s 6-yard touchdown run with only seconds remaining in the third quarter. The point after by freshman kicking specialist Russell Barrios gave the Orediggers a 24-17 lead.
That seven point lead would ultimately hold up to be the final difference, as McVay missed a pair of field goals for the Orediggers in the fourth quarter.
The Grizzlies were unable to sustain much of anything offensively until their final drive, when they racked up 66 yards on 14 plays to get down to the opposing 17-yard line before Anderson forced a fumble by junior running back Terjean Saffold that was recovered by junior linebacker Alex Vigil to end all hopes of a comeback by the Grizzlies.
Garcia was uncomfortable all game long and finished the game just 18 of 40 for 244 yards, while also turning the ball over three times.
Eggleston, who finished 27 of 50 for 257 yards, was under pressure all game long as well, and was sacked three times by senior defensive lineman Marc Schiechl.
Schiechl’s three sacks now make him the all-time NCAA Division II career leader in that category, with 42.5 career sacks. He also had a forced fumble and three quarterback hurries on the afternoon.
Prescott Jr. led the Grizzlies on the receiving end, recording career-highs of 10 catches and 97 yards. His 10 catches are tied for the third-most in Adams State’s single-game history, and the most by any Grizzly receiver in more than three seasons.
The Orediggers, who have won nine of the last ten contests against the Grizzlies, improved their record to 8-1 overall and a perfect 7-0 in the RMAC, and will look to improve that mark at the Chadron State Eagles next Saturday.
The Grizzlies, now 3-6 overall, 2-5 in the RMAC, and ensured of finishing the season with a losing record for the fourth consecutive season, will play the Mesa State Mavericks on Senior Day for the Grizzlies. Kickoff on Saturday is scheduled for noon at Rex Stadium.