GAME NOTES: Western meets Colorado Mines in Dixie Rotary Bowl on Dec. 6
Nov. 18, 2008
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
NEXT GAME: Western Washington University Vikings (5-5, 5-3 GNAC) vs. Colorado School of Mines Orediggers (8-3, 7-2 RMAC) in 23rd annual Dixie Rotary Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 6 (12 noon MT) at Hansen Stadium (4,500 cap., FieldTurf) in St. George, Utah.
The post-season appearance is just the eighth in school history for the Vikings, who have had a gridiron program since 1903, and the first since 1999 when they lost 27-24 at Northeastern OK in the first round of the NCAA Division II national playoffs.
Western and Colorado Mines earned berths in the Dixie Rotary Bowl by being the top teams in their respective leagues not reaching the NCAA II national playoffs. Both league champions - Central Washington from the Great Northwest Athletic Conference and Chadron State from the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference - received playoff berths.
The Vikings tied for second in the GNAC. Two of their losses were to Top 10-ranked Central Washington, and two others were on the road to NCAA I-Football Championship Subdivision opponents. Western played the latter games very close, being tied going into the fourth quarter before falling to Eastern Washington, 52-31; then outgaining North Dakota in total yards despite falling, 42-32.
Western picked up two victories each over Dixie State and Humboldt State, and split with Western Oregon. The Vikings' most dramatic victory came on Sept. 29, when Josh Lider kicked a 27-yard field goal with four seconds left to give them a 29-27 victory over Dixie State.
Colorado Mines is making its second straight Rotary Bowl appearance, losing 26-12 to Western Oregon last year. The Orediggers reached the second round of the national playoffs in 2004 when they won the RMAC title and posted a 12-1 record.
Colorado Mines ended the regular season with wins over Nebraska-Kearney, 37-20, and New Mexico Highlands, 20-7, and has won four of its five contests. After a season-opening loss, the Orediggers won four straight games.
DIXIE ROTARY BOWL: The Dixie Rotary Bowl began in 1986 as a junior college event and became a NCAA II contest in 2006. Last year, Western Oregon defeated Colorado Mines, 26-12; and the previous season, Fort Lewis CO was victorious over Dixie State, 24-14. The GNAC and the RMAC signed a four-year agreement last summer with the Dixie Rotary Bowl to have each league's top finishing team not selected for the NCAA II national playoffs compete in a bowl game at Hansen Stadium in St. George, Utah. For more information, go to the Rotary Bowl link at http://www.rotarybowl.com/.
DECEMBER FOOTBALL: The Vikings are playing in December for the first time since doing so on three occasions in reaching the NAIA Division II championship contest in 1996. The two other times Western played in that month were a second-round NAIA playoff game in 1994 and in 1977 when the Vikings met Pacific Lutheran in the NAIA District 1 championship game in Seattle's KingDome.
TICKET INFORMATION: Tickets for the Dixie Rotary Bowl are $25 for reserved seating, $10 for general admission. They can be purchased at the Western box office by calling (360) 650-2583 or by going to the WWU box office link at http://www.tickets.wwu.edu/.
ROTARY BOWL ON TV: The 2008 Dixie Rotary Bowl will be broadcast live by FANZ-TV, which will distribute the game across its affiliates nationally reaching over 12.5 million homes. FANZ-TV has reached agreements with the Lone Star Network (2.3 million) and Altitude Sports (5.4 million) to broadcast this year's game, adding an additional 7.7 million homes. The games will also appear on the Altitude's DirecTV Ch. 644 & 661 and DISH Network's Ch. 410, bringing another 30 million homes to the footprint. The network will update the complete list of coverage areas on its website at www.fanz-tv.com.
SERIES HISTORY: First meeting.
SENIOR SALUTE: Sixteen seniors are playing in their final game for Western at the Dixie Rotary Bowl. They are offensive lineman Scott Allanson, fullback Matt Clark, offensive lineman Chris Corey, tight end Logan Cullen, defensive back Danny Cumming, defensive end Ami Faalevao, quarterback Tony Gardiner, offensive lineman Phil Hayes, defensive back Kevin Jones, wide receiver Pat McCann, wide receiver Travis McKee, offensive lineman Zach Myers, quarterback Adam Perry, defensive back Anthony Rosso, defensive lineman Shea Thorstad and offensive lineman Dan Trask. Cullen, Hayes, McKee and Rosso are all four-year letter winners, with Clark, Corey, Cumming, Perry, Thorstad and Trask all earning three letters.
RADIO: KBAI (930 AM-Bellingham) is broadcasting all Western football games live this season with sports director Doug Lange handling the play-by-play duties for the 13th consecutive season. The pre-game show with host and color commentator Mark Scholten begins at 11:30 a.m. The KBAI broadcast can also be heard on the Internet at wwuvikings.com.
AUDIO WEBCAST: Viking football is again on the Internet for 2008. To listen to the live broadcast via the web, go to www.wwuvikings.com and follow the links. The web provides streaming audio of the KBAI 930 AM radio broadcast. The audio stream is only available during event broadcast times.
2007 RESULTS: Western finished 2-8 and placed ninth in the NCC at 1-7. Colorado Mines finished 7-5 and finished second in the RMAC at 6-2.
NEW LEAGUE (KIND OF), NEW REGION: The Vikings spent the last two years as a football-only member of the North Central Conference, but when that league folded after an eight-decade history, WWU returned to the GNAC, which took a two-year hiatus from football. The five GNAC schools play each other home-and-home for an eight-game conference schedule.
The five current GNAC football teams competed in the Northwest Region last season, but have been moved to the Southwest Region this fall. That region, which earlier this season was officially renamed Super Regional Four, also includes the Lone Star Conference and the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association.
WESTERN REPORT: Looking to clinch their first winning record since 2004, the Vikings bring a passing game ranked No.10 nationally (304.3 avg.) in NCAA II to their first post-season game since 1999. The Vikings are averaging 405.7 yards and 29.8 points a game with an offense led by senior quarterback Adam Perry, who ranks 11th nationally in total offense (299.2) and 14th in pass efficiency (159.12).
For the season, Perry has completed 219-of-342 passes, a school-record pace 64.0 completion percentage, for 2,969 yards and 26 touchdowns with just five interceptions. He ranks second in among school season leaders in completions (record is 232 by Sam Hanson in 1998), passing yards (record is 3,157 by Darren Erath in 1996 - 13 games), touchdown passes (record is 28 by Hanson in 1998) and total yards with 2,992 (record is 3,254 by Erath in 1996).
Perry, a second-team GNAC all-star, has thrown for better than 300 yards in five games, a school single-season record, and ranks sixth in school history in career passing yards with 4,933 (needs 195 to move into fifth place).
Perry's top two targets are a pair of senior wide receivers, who both were GNAC first-team all-stars. Pat McCann has 52 receptions for 971 yards (ranks 13th nationally at 97.1 receiving yards per game) and 11 touchdowns. The receiving yardage ranks seventh among WWU season leaders and the catch total is is tied for ninth. His 18.7 yards per catch average tops the GNAC and is on school-record pace. Travis McKee has 50 receptions for 742 yards and three touchdowns, and his 126 career catches rank sixth among the school leaders and his 1,585 yards receiving are ninth.
They aren't the only targets, as nine Vikings have at least seven receptions and eight have scored through the air. Tight ends Zack Hekker, a junior, and Logan Cullen, a senior, have combined for 32 receptions for 424 yards, with Hekker having six touchdowns and Cullen one.
Keying the ground game is junior running back Randall Eldridge, who was named the GNAC Newcomer of the Year and was a unanimous first-team all-star. He has 671 yards and four touchdowns on 174 carries and leads the GNAC in rushing (83.9 avg.). Eldridge has also added 33 catches for 394 yards and three scores. Back-up Kevin Sampson, a redshirt freshman, has contributed 219 yards on the ground.
The defense is anchored by junior middle linebacker Caleb Jessup, who has 114 tackles, including 6.5 for loss. He ranks seventh nationally and leads the GNAC in tackles per game (11.4 avg.) with double-figure stops in eight of 10 games.
Jessup is one of two Western defenders who earned first-team all-league recognition. The other was sophomore end Nick Rocco, a unanimous pick who leads the Vikings in sacks with 6.5 for minus-52 yards and overall tackles for loss at 12.0 for minus-87 yards.
In the secondary are two more second-team all-league picks. Sophomore safety Zach Schrader has 70 tackles and a team-high two interceptions, and sophomore cornerback Anthony Zackery has a team-high five passes defensed and 28 tackles.
Two more second-team GNAC all-stars have been outstanding on special teams with junior Rick Copsey picked as both a kickoff and punt returner.
Copsey, an all-purpose threat who also has 26 receptions, is averaging 22.6 yards on 34 kickoff returns and 15.4 yards on eight punt returns. He has had four 100-yard plus kick return games and leads the team in all-purpose running with 1,179 yards (117.9 avg.). His 770 kickoff return yards are a school record.
Placekicker Josh Lider is 32-of-35 on extra points and 8-of-12 on field goals.
The Vikings have blocked four punts this season, with Sampson getting three of them and returning a block against Western Oregon for a touchdown.
The co-captains for the Dixie Rotary Bowl are Copsey, C.J. Green, Perry and Trask.
VIKING NOTES: Perry's 423 yards passing in a 29-27 victory over Dixie State on Sept. 27 were the third-most in school history. He has thrown at least one touchdown pass in every game this season and his five touchdown passes against Humboldt State on Oct. 25 tied a school record held by many ... McCann's 96-yard touchdown grab against Dixie State was a GNAC record and the second-longest in school history. His yardage total of 232 was the second most in school history and his three touchdown catches tied a school record ... Eldridge redshirted last year after being the Golden Gate Conference Offensive Player of the Year at Chabot JC in 2006, rushing for 1,277 yards and 12 touchdowns in 10 games ... Senior wide receiver Travis McKee had 43 catches and was an honorable mention all-NCC pick a year ago. He has been the Vikings' leading receiver in each of the last two seasons ... Jessup earned all-NCC honorable mention in 2007.
SCOUTING COLORADO MINES: The Orediggers return 17 starters from last season's bowl team, 10 of those on defense where they have held opponents averages of 17.8 points and 316.6 total yards (97.7 rushing and 218.9 passing), forcing 22 turnovers and having 78 tackles for loss (minus-313), among them 33 quarterback sacks for minus-191 yards.
Leading that unit is 6-foot-3, 250-pound sophomore end Marc Schiechl, who was a preseason Lindy's Magazine second-team All-American and earned first-team all-RMAC honors for the second straight year. He leads the league in sacks (13.0 for minus-81 yards) and tackles for loss with a school record 19.5 (for minus-106 yards), breaking his own record of 17.5 set as a redshirt freshman in 2007. He needs just one more sack to break his school record of 13.5 set last season.
Senior safety Drew Ferren was another first-team repeater on the RMAC all-star team. He has four pass interceptions and 38 solo tackles, both team highs.
Directing the Colorado Mines offense is junior quarterback David Pesek, who leads the RMAC in passing yards (2,507, 227.9 avg.), total offense (251.4) and completion percentage (65.2). A first-team RMAC all-star, he has completed 225 of 345 passes, with 21 for touchdowns and12 interceptions.
His top target is senior wide receiver Adam Saur, who has already tied his own school record with an RMAC-leading 13 touchdown catches. He has made 66 receptions, which also top the league, for 859 yards.
Another standout receiver is sophomore Tom Kastens, who has 47 grabs for 662 yards and three touchdowns.
Anchoring the offensive line is junior guard Zach Meints, another first-team league all-star, who has helped the Orediggers average 240.9 yards passing, 26.2 points and 335.5 yards in total offense.
Kastens was a first-team all-league pick as a punt returner, averaging a RMAC-leading 11.1 yards per return. Senior running back Corey Huck, who has run for 590 yards (4.5 apc) and one touchdown, was a second-team pick as a kickoff returner, averaging 30.4 yards.
Colorado Mines has scored five touchdowns on returns this season, including two punts, two interceptions and one kickoff (100 yards by Kastens).
WWU INJURY REPORT: WWU lost two top reserves during the first three weeks of the season as strong safety Jordan Carey and cornerback Reggie Christor both suffered season-ending shoulder injuries. Since then, it has been only minor scratches and bruises for the Vikings.
GNAC PRESEASON POLL: WWU was picked to finish third among five teams in the 2008 GNAC preseason coaches poll. Arch-rival Central Washington was the first-place pick with Western Oregon second. Dixie State was fourth and Humboldt State fifth.
HEAD COACHES: Robin Ross (Washington State, 1977) is completing his third year (13-18) as head coach at WWU and has three decades of coaching experience. He was the defensive coordinator for two of the finest Viking teams in school history in the mid-1990s.
Ross spent most of his career as an assistant at the NCAA Division I-A level. He also coached in the National Football League, being the linebackers coach with Oakland for two seasons, helping the Raiders have the ninth-ranked defense in the NFL in 2000, when they were 12-4 and reached the AFC Championship Game.
In 2005, Ross was linebackers coach at Oregon State, where the Beavers led the PAC-10 in run defense, allowing 108.0 yards per game. He spent the previous four seasons as special teams coordinator and tight ends coach at Oregon. The Ducks won the 2001 PAC-10 championship, finishing second in the ESPN Coaches Poll after defeating Colorado in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl. He was also at Oregon as an assistant during the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
Ross initially came to Western in 1994 and in his first season the Vikings led the NAIA Division II in scoring defense, allowing just 11.5 points a game and five times holding opponents without a touchdown. Western, which posted its first national playoff victory that season with a 21-2 triumph at No.1-ranked Linfield, ranked third nationally in rushing defense at 76.0 yards a contest and fifth in total defense (260.3) with 42 takeaways. In 1995, Western finished 9-1, going 9-0 for the school's first undefeated regular-season in 57 years and being ranked No.1 nationally in NAIA II for five weeks. The defense allowed 13.7 points a game, ranking seventh nationally in that category.
Ross, 53, is a graduate of Washington State, where he was a second-team all-PAC-8 pick as an offensive lineman. He was a 10th round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 1976, and spent one preseason with the Seattle Seahawks.
Bob Stitt (Doane, 1986) is completing his ninth season (59-42) as head coach at Colorado Mines. He received RMAC Coach of the Year, AFCA DII Region 5 Coach of the Year and D2football.com Southwest Region Coach of the Year honors in 2004, directing the Orediggers to a 12-1 record, the second round of the national playoffs and a perfect 8-0 record in winning the RMAC title. Stitt was the offensive coordinator at Harvard in 1999 and also had assistant coaching positions are Austin College, Doane College, Northern Colorado and Nebraska Wesleyan.
WWU PLAYERS OF THE WEEK:
Sept. 6 - Western Oregon Offense - Logan Cullen Defense - Zach Schrader Special Teams - Kevin Sampson Scout Team Offense - Tony Gardiner Scout Team Defensive - David Johnson Scout Team Special Teams - Kyle TunneyWEBSITE: For the latest results, statistics and updates, including reports on all WWU athletic events, visit the Vikings website at wwuvikings.com.
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