October 12, 2013

Football can't get over the hump, loses in a shootout at Idaho State

By HEATHER KENNEDY
UNCBears.com

POCATELLO, Idaho – The Northern Colorado football team dropped a shootout at Idaho State, falling 40-26 on Saturday afternoon.

The Bears return home next weekend to host UC Davis at Nottingham Field. The game is scheduled to kick off at 1:05 p.m.

Senior quarterback Seth Lobato completed 19-of-42 passes for 336 yards, the ninth time in his career he's topped the 300 yard mark. His favorite target was once again junior receiver Dimitri Stimphil who had eight catches for 87 yards and one of the team's touchdowns.

Senior wideout Jace Davis caught six passes for a season-high 188 yards and one touchdown. His yardage total is just shy of his career-high of 207 yards from 2010 against Montana State.

Senior running back Tromaine Dennis led the rushing attack, carrying 14 times for 65 yards and the third of the team's TD's on the day. True freshman Darius Graham added another 40 yards on four carries and recorded the team's longest rush of the season at 26 yards. The team ended with 83 net rushing yards, the team's highest total in five games.

Defensively, senior linebacker Clarence Bumpas posted a season-high with 15 tackles. Fellow senior Leilon Willingham added 10, including 2.5 tackles for loss. It is the fourth time in five games Willingham has notched double figures in stops.

The Bears did record eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage, the second highest total of the year behind the 11 against Southern Utah.

"For me, it's not about making excuses," Head Coach Earnest Collins Jr., said. "When you're playing a team like this, when you start two safeties down, it hurts, so we gave up some explosion plays. It's just one of those deals – it's like we're snake bitten – and if I knew the answer it would already be fixed. We're going to keep plugging away and keep grinding at it and try to make it work."

Idaho State quarterback Justin Arias completed 28-of-41 passes for 375 yards and four touchdowns. Both Luke Austin (173) and C. Richmond (102) tallied over 100 yards receiving, while Xavier Finney rushed for 146 yards and one score on 37 carries.

The Bengals scored on their opening possession of the game, driving 67 yards in seven plays and eating just 1:42 off the clock for the early 7-0 lead. The Bears defense forced a three-and-out on the next Bengals drive.

Another quick drive to start the second quarter lifted the Bengals lead to 14-0 after ISU drove 70 plays in six plays in just 2:08.

Lobato found Stimphil from 18-yards out with 10:53 to play in the first half to cap a five play, 65-yard drive. Lobato went 3-for-4 on the drive, connecting with Stimphil twice and Davis once (35 yard gain) to cut the deficit in half, 14-7.

The Bengals immediately answered as Arias found Austin in the corner of the endzone for the score with 8:20 in the half for the 21-7 score.

After the teams traded punts, Lobato heaved the ball 45-yards downfield for Davis and back-to-back grind-them out runs by Dennis brought the Bears back within a touchdown, 21-14 with 2:43 remaining before halftime. The team drove 84 yards in seven plays, eating 3:03 off the clock and Dennis punched in from three-yards out.

Idaho State scored a touchdown with 28 seconds left, but the Bears' Courtney Hall blocked the PAT and Mykel Morse ran the length of the field for a two-point conversion to make the score 27-16.

"It was good," Collins said about the block. "It was good to get those two points but it's one of those deals where we've got to be able to pick each other up. When the defense is playing bad, the offense has got to go and when the offense is playing bad, the defense has got to pick it up and we're just not doing that right now."

The Bengals made a 34-yard field goal with 8:08 remaining in the third quarter to stretch the lead back to two touchdowns, 30-16. Idaho State made good use of a Bears turnover, going 85 yards in just four plays with a 74-yard touchdown pass from Arias to Austin to extend the lead to 37-16 with 1:48 to play.

Davis had another huge play for the Bears, as he snuck through a pair of defenders to go 75-yards on a slant route pass to cut the deficit back to 14, 37-23.

After missing two field goals earlier in the game, Brendon Garcia made a 45-yarder with 5:44 remaining to give the Bengals a 40-23 advantage.

True freshman Jamie Falloon added the first field goal of his career – from 35 yards out – for the 40-26 final.

"I know this about our kids," Collins said. "They're going to keep fighting until the end and we've got to put them in the right position to win football games."