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ST. GEORGE -- Dixie State College and Simon Fraser University, both of which are 0-4, will fight for a first win of the season Saturday in Burnaby, British Columbia.
The Red Storm enters the contest off a bye week, while the Simon Fraser Clan played its best game of the season last week against a respectable opponent. The Clan gave No. 22 Central Washington University a considerable test last Saturday in Canada.
CWU came out on top 44-30, but considering that Simon Fraser is in its first year of NCAA D-II operation, a 13-point loss to the powerhouse Wildcats is impressive. Clan Head Coach Dave Johnson did not want to brag about his team though.
"I'll be honest, I am sure it was very challenging to get their guys revved up to face us," Johnson said. "I would imagine that (CWU), based on our previous games, thought they were going to come up here and just roll us, and in the end they did. We did play tough for a couple of quarters and then had some mental breakdowns."
The Clan did something that most teams do not accomplish against Great Northwest Athletic Conference leader (CWU). The Wildcats' defense average allowance to opponents is 110 yards per game on the ground.
Clan sophomore running back Gabe Ephard hammered out 222 yards of rushing against CWU, including two huge touchdown runs. Ephard busted out on a 64-yarder and a 70-yard run, both for six. In all, the Clan offense produced 459 yards of offense in the game. Ephard rushed only 14 times, and caught four passes for 14 yards.
Ephard is the second leading rusher in the conference (463 yards) and is the overall leader in yards gained per play (9.3). Johnson kept his praise short, almost cautiously, so as not to raise the Red Storm's defensive antennae or his sophomore running back's ego.
"He is a gifted kid, that is for sure," Johnson said.
Johnson expressed much respect about Dixie, and noted the Red Storm's ambition.
"We are young and we are just trying to cover guys up," Johnson said. "To be honest, Dixie State's front four has got us a little bit nervous up here. That line-backing core combined with the front, we feel like we are going to have our hands full."
He added, "I know they (Dixie) are hungry for a win. They certainly have the talent to get one. Obviously they have had some mental mistakes, and they played Central twice."
The Red Storm will likely try to get some ground game going against the Clan. Simon Fraser has been the most charitable defense verses the rush in the GNAC. The Clan defense yields 259 yards per game.
As much as Simon Fraser has been least resistant to the run, DSC has been least effective running. Dixie is the lowest rushing ranked team in the conference, averaging a mere 49 yards per game. Red Storm offensive coordinator Phillip Rauscher said Dixie has been playing behind in the first four games, thus taking from establishing a running identity.
"This would be a great starting point to get our running game going," Rauscher said. "We ran our power play against Central Washington and it broke out pretty nice in the second half. We need to get that going consistently to be the football team that we want to be."
Both head coaches gave simple formulas about winning the game. Simon Fraser's Johnson opined, "We need to protect the ball. We can't give Dixie a leg up."
Dixie's Brumfield just wants his team to dictate more.
"The biggest thing for us is to just eliminate the big plays," He said. "We need to win the field position battle."
The Red Storm and Clan play at 4 p.m. Saturday at Terry Fox Field in Burnaby, Canada. All Dixie State College games are radio broadcast live on local 91.3 KXDS-FM.