Weather has huge affect on Champions Day
GREELEY – It was quite possibly the worst weather possible for a day set to celebrate a national championship. The University of Northern Colorado brought the 1996 Division II Football National Championship team back to campus, but the 2011 Bears were not able to overcome the cold, rain and wind as well as the visiting Sacramento State Hornets and lost 14-0.
At kickoff, the temperature was just 37 degrees with winds out of the northwest at 23 miles per hour and the rain was coming down hard and continued throughout the game.
The Bears (0-6, 0-4 Big Sky Conference) had just 72 yards of total offense, while the Hornets (3-3, 1-3 Big Sky) had 177 yards – all rushing. Senior running back Bryan Hilliard had his fourth consecutive 100-yard rushing game against the Bears, tallying 106.
"Well, weather-wise, it wasn't what we were expecting," said Head Coach Earnest Collins Jr. "You've got to be able to adjust and get it done. I thought there were some things, as a coach, we've got take from this game and build upon. Defense came out and played pretty decent, and we're going to take that—we're going to take every positive we can after we look at the film—and talk to our kids tomorrow about the things we're going to build on and do our best to be ready to go and beat Eastern Washington next week. That's who we are, and like I told you before, there is no quit in us, and we're going to keep fighting until the end."
Sophomore linebacker Clarence Bumpas again paced the defense, notching 17 tackles – his fourth straight game in double figures – and recovering one fumble. Senior safety Chuks Nweke also had 10 tackles, the third time this season he's managed double digits.
Freshman defensive tackle Lexington Smith blocked the first punt of the year for Northern Colorado and the first since Brandon Owens did so at South Dakota on Oct. 30, 2010. The team also had six different players combine for seven tackles for loss.
Junior return specialist Dominic Gunn became Northern Colorado's career leader in kickoff return yards with three returns for 71 yards. He now has 1,276 kickoff returns to break the previous record of 1,262 by Johnny Watkines (1981-84).
Offensively, sophomore running back Quentin Hildreth rushed 20 times for 36 yards, while senior quarterback Dylan Orms carried the ball 12 times for 25 yards. Due to the weather, the Bears attempted just 13 passes, completing three for 29 yards. Sophomore Seth Lobato was 2-for-7 for 22 yards, while Orms was 1-for-6 for seven yards.
Orms hit senior wide receiver Patrick Walker in the fourth quarter to keep Walker's streak of consecutive games with a catch alive at 16.
The adverse weather seemed to have the greatest affect on special teams as Northern Colorado blocked one punt of the Hornets and the Bears had two dropped punts and a bad snap on a field goal. All three ended in negative rushing yards (35 yards lost). Both teams averaged under 40 yards per punt on the day with Sacramento State averating 30.2 and NC 39.8.
The two teams also combined for 10 turnovers on the afternoon, with each team losing two.
Both Jeff Badger and Todd Davis recorded 10 tackles each to lead Sacramento State's defense and Davis also forced two fumbles.
The Bears turn their attention to Eastern Washington and the red turf. Northern Colorado and Eastern Washington kick off at 5:05 pm on Oct. 15.