GOLDEN — Leave it to one of the most electric offenses in the nation, the Colorado School of Mines Orediggers No. 2 Orediggers in the NCAA Division II preseason, to create some college football drama during of the opening night.
After taking a three-point lead in the fourth quarter against No. 3 Grand Valley State, senior redshirt kicker Hunter Pearson netted a game-winning 41-yard field goal into the wind with two seconds remaining to give Mines a victory spectacular 31-28 at Marv Kay Stadium on Thursday.
It was only Pearson’s third career field goal, but he shattered a previous college record 28 yards while at Virginia. He joined the team in 2023 after working at a company for more than a year in downtown Denver and only found out he was scheduled to leave on Wednesday. The “corporate transfer”, as he joked, has taken place.
“I knew I had to be ready and if it was a longer placement it would have been Jacob Click,” Pearson said. “We got close and we both knew this was coming. … It started straight, trailed left and it was tight. It’s not my best kick but, I mean, it was successful, it counts.
— Brendan Ploen (@BrendanPloen) September 1, 2023
Defending Harlon Hill Trophy winner John Matocha, who went 27 of 41 for 341 passing yards and two touchdowns, had a memorable final drive to calm the nerves of Mines fans when he found sophomore Flynn Schiele year in a 6-foot-4 red shirt, three times. player of seven games. That only happened after the Lakers came back strong with three scores in the fourth quarter. From the 25-yard line, the Orediggers went 63 yards when the drive started with 36 seconds remaining.
First-year head coach and offensive coordinator Pete Sterbick, known for his attention to detail, reviewed the script Wednesday night, just in case.
“We watched the two-minute game last year (against GVSU) that we didn’t get through,” Sterbick said. “…We took the time to figure out where the ‘spaces’ I would call would be. John had very high expectations because of this encounter, our O line protected him and our receivers were in the right place… It was great to see this exact situation come up the way we talked about it and the guys were ready.
Earlier in the evening, Noah Roper, a native of Erie (61 yards on 13 carries), transferred from Dartmouth in the offseason, scored half as many touchdowns (2) in the first half for Mines than he has done so in his entire career with the Big Green (4).
“Coming back to Colorado feels good,” Roper said after the game. “I don’t think there’s a place I’d rather be playing right now. The guys welcomed me and it’s amazing to be here.
GVSU took an early lead on their opening possession on a six-play, 99-yard drive with Kyle Nott on a 9-yard field.
Matocha, however, found his rhythm early on as in an 11-game first-quarter practice he completed 5 of 6 passes and Roper scored to tie. With 1:27 left at halftime, Roper scored his second of the game on a 12-yard pass from Matocha to make it 14-7.
Running back Landon Walker scored twice in the third quarter to put the game seemingly on ice, once on a 34-yard improvisation cross pass from Matocha which he ignited and brought in, and another a few meters to extend. lead at 28-7.
The Lakers (0-1) retaliated by scoring early in the final quarter, another with 1:17 remaining to close the gap to one score, and then recovered an inbounds kick. to a 21-yard run from quarterback Cade Peterson as he dodged Mines defenders on a fourth down to tie the score. However, it was a bit too soon as it allowed Matocha to complete the final drive and eventual game-winning kick.
With a home win under their belt, the Orediggers travel to San Angelo, Texas next Saturday to take on a familiar foe at Angelo State. The teams have faced each other in each of the final two games of Week 2 as well as the two NCAA Division II playoffs, the 2021 and 2022 quarterfinals.
“Our guys haven’t lost hope,” Sterbick said. “I have to do a better job of helping our guys. We didn’t play good team football, which is a priority for us, but we were able to pick ourselves up and find a way.