Story and photo courtesy of Northern Colorado Athletics
GREELEY, Col. – An interception by senior safety Jordan Bible on Colorado Mesa's first play from the line of scrimmage set the tone for the Northern Colorado football team as they powered to a 40-3 victory in the 2012 home opener.
The win snaps a 12-game losing streak for the Bears and gives Head Coach Earnest Collins Jr., his first coaching victory at his alma mater. It also improves the team to 1-1 on the year.
"After going 0-12 it feels good to get one," Collins said. "I'm happy to have a win under our belts and I'm hopeful to get many more. The kids played hard today and I'm proud of them all --offense, defense and special teams. We struggled early, but we kept fighting. At halftime we went in and talked about how they needed to keep playing and they came out and got it done."
Northern Colorado wanted to establish the run game early and it paid off as junior college transfer Tromaine Dennis rushed for three touchdowns. He ended the game with 88 yards on 20 carries, while junior running back Quentin Hildreth rushed 13 times for 48 yards and junior quarterback Seth Lobato had 12 yards on four rushes.
Lobato also completed 20-of-35 passes for 260 yards and hit sophomore Dimitri Stimphil on a 46-yard completion for the first score in the second half.
The defense also got in on the scoring, as sophomore linebacker Leilon Willingham scooped up a bad snap over quarterback Deke Cisco's head and ran it 30 yards for the score just 22 seconds after Stimphil was in the end zone.
Junior kicker Dave Eden made a pair of field goals, one from 21-yards and one from 22, along with four extra points for 10 of the team's 40 points.
The Bears ended the day with three interceptions as junior linebacker Clarence Bumpas and sophomore corner Courtney Hall joined Bible on the list. Hall has now had a pick in each of the first two games this season and it's the first time since 2008 (Quincy Wofford) a Bear has had an interception in back-to-back games.
"I knew they were a running team, but when they came out throwing the first couple of plays – and it was them trying to catch us off guard –our kids read the keys and did the right things," Collins said. "For Jordan Bible to get the first pick of his career was a great deal. I can't speak enough about our defense and the job that Coach (Zach) Shay and his staff have done with them. It's good to see them set the tone for us."
Bumpas led the team with eight tackles, snapping his streak of 10 straight games in double figures, but he added a quarterback sack to go along with his interception.
Sophomore transfer Mykel Morse, junior defensive end Gavin Miller and senior linebacker Herve Tonye-Tonye all chipped in six tackles and all had at least 0.5 tackles for loss. Tonye-Tonye also forced a fumble.
Senior wide receiver/return specialist Dominic Gunn did everything but get into the end zone. He ended the game with 193 all-purpose yards, 60 coming off five catches, while the other 133 came on six punt returns. Gunn had the longest punt return of his career, 67 yards to the two-yard line, setting up Eden's second field goal.
Gunn's 133 punt return yards are the fourth-most in a single game in Northern Colorado history and gives him 490 for his career, which jumps him five spots to fifth on the career chart. He passes Mickey Holmes (1966-69), along with position coach Keith Grable (1996-99), Tony Roberson (1993-96), Dillan Micus (1997-98) and Chris Brown (1972-73).
The Bears play at Sacramento State next Saturday in a non-conference tilt. Kick-off is scheduled for 3:05 pm. The Hornets upset Colorado (30-28) in Boulder earlier Saturday to even their season record at 1-1.
"It feels good to get your first win, but I didn't come here to win one game," Collins said. "I came here to win a lot of games, so I'm just happy it came today and we'll move on and look towards the next one. I'm extremely thrilled to be at this awesome university and to get that first victory today was a blessing."