Nov 08, 2015
The Humboldt State Lumberjacks are Great Northwest Athletic Conference champions. The nationally-ranked Green and Gold secured the outright conference title Saturday with a 57-14 victory over Dixie State in Hansen Stadium.
“This was a goal from day one for our kids,” said Head Coach Rob Smith. “The credit goes to our team. I am very proud of them. These kids have answered the bell throughout the season. People see what happens on Saturdays, but don’t see the sacrifice during the week. It is fun to see our players enjoy this championship.”
HSU dominated Dixie State from start to finish in its final conference game of the season. The Jacks outscored their hosts 40-0 in the first half behind a balanced offensive attack and stout defensive play.
Quarterback Robert Webber targeted tight end Derrick Brown for a pair of first quarter touchdowns that gave the North Coast team a 14-0 lead. Senior linebacker Taylor Mitchell added to the total as he wrapped up Dixie State running back DeJon Coleman in the end zone at the end of the quarter for a safety.
The one negative to the Jacks’ early success was the loss of defensive playmaker Chris Hannible. The junior defensive back left the game with a leg injury after snatching his conference-leading sixth interception out of the air during Dixie State’s first drive of the game. He did not return.
In the second quarter, sophomore running back Ja’Quan Gardner stole the show. The Ceres, Calif., native ran for 134 of his 185-yard total on nine carries. He broke a game-long 74-yard touchdown run to put HSU ahead 34-0 with 2:44 left until halftime. After Gardner’s third carry of the game, he became HSU’s single-season rushing record holder. Gardner now occupies the No. 1 spot with 1,735 rushing yards, 156 yards more than his predecessor Nick Ricciardulli.
Gardner wasn’t the only Lumberjack showing off his ability to outrun the Dixie State defense in the second quarter. With less than four minutes left in the half, Webber dashed out of the pocket on first down and raced 48 yards in the end zone. It was his longest run of the season and it gave HSU a 27-0 lead before the Gardner touchdown run.
Just before the teams headed into the locker room, defensive back Nick Sharpe intercepted a Red Storm deep throw into the end zone for a touchback. The pick was Sharpe’s second of the year.
HSU attempted just four passes in the second half and instead decided to let the running game go to work against the porous Dixie State defense. Gardner did not see action in the second half, and the Jacks turned to Richard Doctor, Blair Zerr and Jabar Byrd to shoulder the load. Doctor finished the game with 82 rushing yards on 13 carries, Zerr carried the ball 10 times for 73 yards and a touchdown and Byrd added 36 yards.
Kicker Cameron Southward put together a clinic on kicking field goals from 40-plus yards Saturday. He split the uprights on a 40-yard and 49-yard field goal. The junior from Auburn, Calif., also connected on all seven point after opportunities.
Connor Cox, Mitch Francis and Mitchell led the Green and Gold with seven tackles apiece. Mitchell and Drew Dubois finished with three and two tackles for loss, respectively.
The Jacks have a date with conference rival Western Oregon on Saturday, Nov. 14 in Monmouth, Ore. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.