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Falcons fall to South Dakota School of Mines, remain hopeful

September 24, 2015

After UWRF’s surprise victory over the South Dakota School of Mines on the road last season, expectations were high coming into last Saturday night’s contest.

However, last year’s result couldn’t be replicated this season with South Dakota School of Mines coming out with a fast-paced start to beat the Falcons 49-22.

“Whenever you face a scholarship team, there’s an element of the unknown coming into each season. They did a great job of recruiting this past offseason and we knew coming in they were going to be one of the most athletic teams we would face all season,” Coach Matt Walker said.

The Hardrockers showed their athleticism right out of the gate, putting together an impressive 73-yard drive in the first minutes that was capped off by a 1 yard plunge into the end zone by RB Jerome Dixon. South Dakota Mines converted on a two point conversion to make it 8-0 early in the game.

The Falcon’s defense was the next to step up, with SR Defensive Back Charles Register intercepting a Hardrockers pass and returning it 54 yds. This set up a 37-yard field goal that QB Ryan Kuselik booted through the uprights to make it 8-3.

But that was the closest the Falcons would get on rededication night for the new David Smith stadium. South Dakota Mines would go on to score the next 20 points unanswered into halftime, and would go up 35-3 before the falcons would put up another score in the third quarter.

The Hardrockers were led by their dual quarterback threat of Jake Sullivan and Trent McKinney, who combined for 251 yards passing through the air. McKinney was also dangerous out of the backfield, scrambling for yardage all night with 112 yards on just seven carries. His two rushing touchdowns were huge factors in South Dakota Mines putting the game out of reach in the second half.

Coach Walker thought the Falcons had many areas to improve on after the game, saying, “There wasn’t one specific area where we were outstanding tonight. We need to be a little better everywhere to improve as we go forward.”

However, the Falcons offense stepped up big in the second half to try to make a game of it. Senior QB Ryan Kuselik came out firing after the break, finishing with 236 yards passing on 51 attempts on the game. His two touchdown passes to freshman receiver Nick Studer were key in injecting some life into the Falcon offense. Kuselik even added a 14-yard rushing touchdown of his own in the 4th quarter.

“We didn’t hold anything back after halftime and really opened up the playbook to let our senior quarterback go after it. We realized we had to change our game plan and Ryan (Kusilek) completed a lot of passes for us. There were also a lot of dropped balls so the stats don’t tell the whole story of how he played. He showed the fans in the second half what he can really do,” Coach Walker said.

The Falcons struggled to run the ball all night, with leading rusher Rance Ashley only getting 31 yards on 10 carries. The Falcons were hoping to keep the high-powered Hardrockers offense off the field by controlling the pace of the game, but the South Dakota Mines defensive line contained the Falcons throughout the game.

It was a disappointing result for the Falcons that dropped them to 0-2 on the season, but Coach Walker knows his players are going to stay together and not dwell on the result for too long.

“Even though our team had execution issues, their effort was never lacking throughout the game and that’s something to be proud of. The team is going to face adversity now, but they’ve already shown they have a tight bond and won’t allow these tough losses to bring the team down. It’s easy to lose goals once you lose a game or two, but we will continue to improve and grow.”

The Falcons won’t have long to dwell on their home-opener loss as they travel down to Texas this week to play Southwestern University. But Coach Walker knows these next games will “prove what kind of men as coaches and players we all are”.

Kickoff for the Falcons game at Southwestern University is at 1 p.m. on Sept. 26.