Western Washington defeats Colorado Mines 25-10, claims 2008 Rotary Bowl crown

By Steve Johnson

ST. GEORGE, Utah – Western Washington University scored 25 unanswered points and used a stifling second-half defensive effort en route to a 25-10 victory over Colorado School of Mines in the 23rd annual Dixie Rotary Bowl, Saturday afternoon at Hansen Stadium on the campus of Dixie State College of Utah.

With the victory, the WWU Vikings finished the 2008 season with a record of 6-5 and 5-3 conference, while the CSM Orediggers wrapped up their season at 8-4 overall.

The game was played before a crowd of 2,598, the fifth-largest crowd of the Vikings' season and the site of their 20-14 win over Dixie State Nov. 1.

The Vikings roster includes Friday Harbor alum Danny Cumming, a 6-0, 180-pound junior defensive back who had 20 tackles this season. Cumming had two tackles, including one resulting in a one-yard loss, Saturday.

Former Friday Harbor Wolverines football coach Richard Ledford talked Sunday about Cumming's maturity and diversity as a player.

"He's such a great young man," Ledford said. "He was split end and defensive back my first year; the next year he was starting quarterback for us when we went 6-3 and beat Concrete for the first time since the 1970s or '80s. He was a real stable player for us. He a gentleman until the ball is snapped, then he's a very aggressive player."

The Orediggers scored the first points of the game near the end of the first quarter on a Colin Baker 33-yard field goal, which capped a 14-play, 80-yard drive, to put the Orediggers up 3-0.

The Orediggers' defense then forced a three-and-out on Western's ensuing possession, and the Oredigger special teams capitalized as Tom Kastens returned the Viking punt 60 yards to the Western 7-yard line to put CSM at first and goal. Corey Huck cashed in the chance with a 1-yard plunge two plays later and the Orediggers led 10-0 with one second remaining in the quarter.

Western Washington would get on the scoreboard with just under five minutes to play in the half as Viking quarterback Adam Perry led his team on an 11-play, 83-yard drive, capped by his 1-yard dive, to cut the deficit to 10-7. The Vikings then got the ball back after a defensive stop and drove 54 yards to the CSM 20, but the CSM defense denied the scoring chance as Drew Ferren picked off Perry in the end zone to stall the drive.

However, the Viking defense returned the favor three plays later as CSM quarterback David Pesek was intercepted by Zach Schrader and the Western Washington offense was back in business at the Oredigger 31 yardline with 1:58 until intermission. The Vikings tied the game at 10-10 as Josh Lider connected for a 29-yard field goal right before halftime.

The second half would belong to Western Washington as the Vikings took the first possession of the third quarter and marched 60 yards in five plays, culminating with an 8-yard touchdown strike from Perry to Logan Cullen. However, the PAT was blocked, leaving the Vikings with a six-point advantage at 16-10. The Vikings would pad their lead to 19-10 with a Lider 39-yard field goal, which barely cleared the cross bar, near the end of the period.

Meanwhile, the Viking defense clamped down on the Orediggers as Western Washington gave up just 83 total yards in the second half and picked off Pesek two more times in the fourth quarter. The first interception was turned into the final points of the game as Perry and Cullen hooked up for their second touchdown of the game, an 11-yard connection to push the lead to 15 points at 25-10 with 6:26 remaining. The Vikings went for the two-point conversion, but Perry’s pass fell incomplete.

Western Washington racked up 388 yards of total offense, 275 of which came through the air as Perry, who was named the Vikings' Rotary Bowl Most Outstanding Player, went 21-of-33 passing with three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) and one interception.

Meanwhile, junior running back Randall Eldridge set a Rotary Bowl NCAA record with 134 rushing yards on 24 carries, breaking the previous four-year competition bowl record of 133 yards set by Fort Lewis College’s Justin Matherson in 2006. Cullen finished with three receptions for 51 yards, while receiver Pat McCann tallied a game-high 86 yards receiving on six catches.

Colorado Mines tallied 234 yards, led by Pesek’s 137 passing yards on 18-of-35 attempts. Huck finished with 51 yards on 12 carries to go with his first-quarter touchdown and was named the Orediggers’ Rotary Bowl Most Outstanding Player.

ROTARY BOWL NOTES: Eldridge also broke a Rotary Bowl NCAA record with his 24 carries, eclipsing the previous record of 18 by CSM’s David Pesek in last year’s Bowl Game ... CSM fell to 0-2 in Rotary Bowls, losing last year’s game to Western Oregon University, 26-12 ... The 2008 Dixie Rotary Bowl marked the third year the game was contested by NCAA Division II member schools; the first 20 Rotary Bowls were contested by junior college programs ... CSM’s Drew Ferren recorded his third-career Rotary Bowl interception; Ferren had two interceptions in last year’s Bowl game vs. Western Oregon ... CSM’s Tom Kastens’ 60-yard first-quarter punt return was a Dixie Rotary Bowl NCAA record ... Western Washington quarterback Adam Perry tied a Rotary Bowl NCAA record with his two TD passes (Skyler Ence, Dixie State, 2006) ... Western Washington kicker Josh Lider set a Rotary Bowl NCAA record with seven points (2 FG, 1 PAT) ... Western Washington's 275 passing yards and 29 first downs are Rotary Bowl NCAA team records ... Western Washington receiver Pat McCann’s 86 receiving-yard performance fell one-yard short of the Rotary Bowl NCAA record of 87 receiving yards by CSM’s Derek Dykstra in 2007.

— Steve Johnson is a member of the Rotary Bowl Association.

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