Courtesy of Chadron State Athletics
- Chadron State’s Glen Clinton returned a kickoff for 88 yards with just over a minute remaining and defensive back Phil Rivera intercepted a pass at the goal line as time expired to lift the Eagles to a wild 38-31 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference victory over No. 16-ranked Colorado School of Mines Saturday afternoon at Elliott Field.
“This was a statement for us,” CSC head coach Bill O’Boyle said. “Colorado Mines is a great football team, but our guys were challenged and they responded in a big way. I have to take my hat off to the team because we’ve been challenging them all week and they came through.”
The win, unlike Clinton’s kickoff return, was anything but easy despite the early scoring burst. The Eagles, now 7-3 overall and 6-2 in the RMAC, jumped out to a 28-0 lead midway through the second quarter, but the Orediggers (8-2, 7-1 RMAC) dug themselves out and tied the game at 28 apiece when Robbin Vinnola caught his second touchdown pass of the day from Clay Garcia early in the fourth quarter.
After losing the big lead, Chadron State didn’t wilt on its next possession. Senior quarterback Garrett Treffer, who replaced Jonn McLain after he left with an injury in the third quarter, led the Eagles on an 11-play, 65-yard drive to get back on top when Michael Ziola booted a 27-yard field goal.
After Ziola’s field goal, the teams traded possessions before Chadron State’s Jed Herblan intercepted Garcia at the 23-yard line. However, the Eagles fumbled three plays later and Mines took over at the 32-yard line with three and a half minutes to play.
Following the fumble, Garcia completed three passes for 31 yards and the Orediggers were set up at the Eagles’ 22-yard line after a facemask penalty. The Chadron State defense kept Mines out of the end zone, though, and Paul McVay nailed a 40-yard field goal to tie the game at 31-31.
McVay’s next kick also resulted in a score when Clinton raced down the far sideline for the go-ahead score. It was the first kickoff returned for a CSC touchdown since the 2008 season.
Even though Clinton provided some late-game theatrics, the Orediggers still had life. They received the kickoff at the 42-yard line and drove to the CSC 18 in eight plays before Rivera’s heroics at the goal line.
The Eagles scored early and often, in large part due to the inspired play of the defense. Jeff Alcorn caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from McLain on CSC’s first play from scrimmage after CSC recovered a fumble on Mines’ opening possession.
Nathan Ross added a 9-yard TD grab on the Eagles’ next possession on the heels of back-to-back sacks from middle linebacker James Belville, and Clinton, who rushed for 82 yards in the game, ran in for a 9-yard score late in the first quarter.
The Eagles added another touchdown when McLain, who completed 15 of 21 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns, connected with Dominic Morris midway through the second quarter on a 59-yard shovel pass that went the distance. It was Morris’ third touchdown of the season that covered more than 50 yards.
While it appeared the rout was on, Mines clawed back into the game. Tom Kastens caught a 23-yard pass on the Orediggers’ next possession and Vinnola, who had eight catches for 113 yards, added a TD late in the half to cut the deficit to 28-14.
Mines continued its comeback in the second half when defensive tackle Blaine Sumner lined up in the backfield and capitalized on a CSC turnover with his 1-yard scoring plunge and Vinnola tied the game early in the fourth.
The Orediggers gained 386 yards compared to 360 for the Eagles, but Mines only rushed for eight yards. Garcia completed 33 of 53 passes for 378 yards and three touchdowns but he was sacked five times.
Belville had 2.5 of those sacks and finished with seven tackles. Herblan led CSC’s defense with 12 tackles, including nine solo stops.
The Eagles will close out their regular season next Saturday at Mesa State. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.