Momentum has been miniscule and less than brief for the South Dakota School of Mines football team early this season and Saturday was no exception against the Colorado School of Mines in the home season opener at O’Harra Stadium.
A 76-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Mike Zanutto to running back Deshaun Scott got the Hardrockers and their fans fired up, as it cut the Orediggers lead to 10-7. That was it as the Orediggers rolled to a 71-7 win.
Coming off the tough 66-0 loss to Division I North Dakota, South Dakota School of Mines head coach Stacy Collins was looking for some type of improvement against the D-II Orediggers. That didn’t happen and he said they were all obviously disappointed with not only the final score, but how they played. And he took the blame.
“We just got beat. We have to play better in all three phases of the game, and I take full responsibility for that,” Collins said. “We’re better than that and it all falls on my shoulders.”
After rolling up 690 yards of total offense in the 57-16 win over William & Jewell last week, Colorado School of Mines (2-0) picked up where it left off, dominating the Hardrockers, leading 42-7 at halftime.
Colorado Mines head coach Bob Stitt added to his school-record win total with an impressive show of offense once again, with 436 total yards. This time, he said they played better defense.
“We really wanted to come out and play the exact same way that we did last week,” Stitt said. “Our offense really executed and what we didn’t get last week was that our defense didn’t come out and play very well. I had a feeling that they were going to because they didn’t hold up their end last week.”
Orediggers quarterback Mike Brown, in just his second career start, was near unstoppable, completing 25-of-43 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns. Brown was 18-of-31 for 201 yards in the first half alone.
“We have a lot of weapons, but it all starts up front,” Stitt said. “This line is the best that I have ever had. They’re giving Matt some time to do some things. He is a special quarterback although he is just a sophomore. He really gets it. He’s throwing to the right people and they are making plays.”
About the only mistakes the Orediggers made were a handful of penalties, three late second-half fumbles by the reserves and one pass interception. None of that mattered.
Colorado Mines got on the board early on a 47-yard field goal by Avery Llewellyn and took a 10-0 lead when linebacker Alex Laudenslager stepped in front of a Hardrockers receiver and returned the interception 39 yards for the score.
Two plays later, Zanutto found Scott wide open in the middle of the field for the long scoring bomb. Zanutto, however, completed just five more passes in the first half for 10 yards.
The Orediggers immediately regained the momentum on an eight-play, 75-yard drive, scoring on a 5-yard catch from Brown to Jimmy Ellis. With four minutes still left in the first quarter, Ryan Palmer scored on a 1-yard TD run for a 23-7 lead.
Colorado Mines added 19 points in the second quarter on a 50-yard field goal by Llewellyn, a 7-yard TD catch by Jerrod Doucet from Brown, a blocked punt through the end zone by Ian McFadden and another 1-yard touchdown run.
The Orediggers didn’t take it easy early in the third quarter as Brown hit Doucet on a 36-yard TD pass on fourth and 10 and Palmer scored again from 1 yard for a 55-7 lead with 2:58 left in the third.
Stitt finally called off the dogs, but the scoring onslaught didn’t stop there, as new quarterback Joe Schneider hit Ellis on a 9-yard TD pass and the Orediggers’ defense got another safety and a final defensive score on a 69-yard fumble return by Billy Sprague.
Kolton Jelden missed field goal attempts of 50 and 41 yards in the final minutes for the ‘Rockers.
“We had a couple of chances to get something going, but we have to get better on offense and defense and we were just terrible on special teams,” Collins said. “We just can’t allow this to happen. We are a better team than this … we just have to find a way to show it.”
Zanutto was 15-of-29 passing for 122 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. With several quarterback sacks, the Hardrockers rushed unofficially for a minus-5 yards. Scott did have three pass receptions for 81 yards.
The Hardrockers will look to get something going Saturday in Jamestown, N.D., against Jamestown College, while Colorado Mines will host Black Hills State University.