Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
This one hurt.
At home, with perhaps its best chance at a victory so far this season, the Fort Lewis College football team watched a win go by the wayside with poorly timed miscues again to blame.
Western State got a handful of key fourth-down stops and turnovers deep in its own territory and kept the Skyhawks out of the end zone en route to an 18-6 victory in a battle of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference’s two winless teams Saturday at Ray Dennison Memorial Field.
The Skyhawks’ offense put up plenty of yards Saturday but couldn’t punch one into the end zone. Four FLC drives ended inside the Western State 30-yard line by virtue of interception or turnover on downs.
Scoreless in the first quarter, FLC came up short on fourth down from the Mountaineers’ 8. In the second quarter, Tim Jenkins couldn’t connect with Ethan Klaseen on fourth and 5 from the Mountaineers’ 12. Jenkins threw an uncharacteristic, across-his-body interception from the Mountaineers’ 12 in the third quarter, and Cougar Beaubien, in for a temporarily injured Jenkins, was stuffed on fourth and 1 from the Mountaineers’ 30 in the fourth quarter with FLC down 15-6.
“Thought we wouldn’t have too much problem getting back down there, so we kept going for it on fourth down,” FLC head coach Cesar Rivas-Sandoval said. “I don’t regret going for it on fourth down. I believe in our offense; I believe in those kids.”
In FLC’s other two trips deep into Mountaineers’ territory, the Skyhawks settled for field goals. After Phil Odell forced a Kyle Motal fumble at the Mountaineers’ 9, the offense sputtered, leading to a Stephen Andrews field goal. Andrews later hit one from 25 to cut the lead to 8-6.
FLC wide receiver Jordan Benton, who led the Skyhawks with 95 yards receiving, said he couldn’t pinpoint what went wrong when the Skyhawks played in the Mountaineers’ end.
“We just didn’t convert,” Benton said. “I don’t know why we didn’t. I don’t know how we didn’t. It’s just we didn’t convert, and that’s what this game comes down to.”
Penalties weren’t abundant for the Skyhawks, but they were poorly timed and led to all three scores. A personal foul on a punt return late in the first half set the Mountaineers (1-7, 1-5 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) up at the FLC 12 with less than a minute left in the first half, and one play later, Brian Duboski hit Lukas Adams for a touchdown, with the 2-point conversion putting Western State up 8-6 heading into intermission.
In the fourth quarter, Mike Campbell appeared to have a game-changing interception in his own end zone, but the Skyhawks were called for roughing the passer, negating the turnover. Germaine Daniels, who ran for 149 yards on 34 carries, plunged in from a yard out to push the lead to 15-6.
Perhaps the biggest backbreaker of the bunch came midway through the fourth quarter.
FLC had Daniels stopped short of a first down on third down, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty kept the drive alive, allowing the Mountaineers to continue a possession that led to a Stephen Ballard field goal with just 2:06 to go.
“I think all three of their scoring drives there was a third-down penalty,” Rivas said.
Besides the red-zone deficiencies, FLC (0-7, 0-6 RMAC) was offensively solid.
Jenkins was 25-for-44 for 249 yards, and Van Gramman ran for 55 yards.
Jenkins suffered what appeared to be a right shoulder injury midway through the fourth quarter, paralyzing the drive that ended with Beaubien being stopped short on fourth down, but Jenkins returned for the Skyhawks’ final drive.
FLC was defensively strong for most of the contest, holding the quarterback duo of Duboski and Motal to just 11 of 23 passing for 137 yards and hemming in the Mountaineers’ running game in the first half.
FLC had three sacks, while Western State dropped Jenkins five times.
The Skyhawks will continue the journey for win No. 1 at 1 p.m. Saturday at Adams State in their annual Musket Game.
As for what they need to fix, Benton said it all: “Score.”