JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – This is the second in an 11-part series chronicling each of Carson-Newman football's opponents for the 2013 season. Today's feature is week two opponent Colorado School of Mines. The Eagles play at 2 p.m. in Golden, Colo. Sept. 14.
The Eagles last foray into the Mountain Time Zone came in 2007 with a 35-13 win over Utah-based Dixie State. The Eagles have made two trips to the Centennial State, coming away with a national championship in 1983 with a 36-28 win over Mesa State in Grand Junction, Colo.
Mines went 6-5 in 2012 and 4-5 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. The Orediggers boasted a prolific passing offense that averaged 367.4 yards per game.
Mines was a near inverse of C-N last season. While the Eagles rushed the ball 86 percent of the time, the Orediggers passed it nearly 70 percent of the time.
Bob Stitt, the 14-year head coach of Mines, runs an offense that has drawn the eye of high flying WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen. Holgorsen attributes a modified fly sweep to Stitt. In the play, a wide receiver motions across the formation as a shotgun snap comes back to the quarterback. An eye blink later, the QB has tapped the ball to the man in motion as he jets around the formation.
Holgorsen used the play to great success in the Mountaineers 70-33 pulverizing of Clemson in the 2011 Orange Bowl and later credited Stitt in the postgame show. You can find a resulting column from CBS Sports here.
The Orediggers offense was equally high octane early last year before cooling off late, a by product, in part, because of injuries. Mines scored more than 35 points in four of their first five games last year. In fact, the Orediggers finished the year averaging 39.7 points per game, but closed the year with back-to-back losses where they scored less than 30 points in each contest.
Junior quarterback Matt Brown returns after posting 352 yards per game through the air. He completed 347 of his 596 passes with 31 touchdowns against 15 interceptions. Brown led the nation in completions and was fifth in yards per game.
While the Orediggers do bring back their QB, Mines will have to replace Brown's top three targets. David Pawelek, Jerrod Doucet and Cody Renken all gained more than 700 yards through the air last year, but all depart the program due to graduation. Pawelek had the top mark with 1,047 yards. The trio also combined for 22 of the Orediggers 34 passing TDs.
The leading returning receiver is rising junior Diamond Gillis, who started 10 games and caught 45 passes for 501 yards and five scores.
The Oredigger running game was sparse in 2012, accounting for 972 yards for the year - however, the top three backs are back. The leading rusher was Dan Palmer. The senior only played in five games, but accounted for 246 yards. He was granted an extra year of eligibility due to medical hardship. Tevin Champagne gained 211 yards last season before going down with an injury. Also returning is Zack Newnam, who filled in as a running back before Palmer and Champagne went down with their injuries.
Defensively, Mines returns its top six tacklers from 2012 and seven of its top nine. Key losses come at linebacker in the form of Jarrad McKay and Henry Kaetzer. However, 107-tackle performer Tyler Denson is back as is Chad McGraw, who forced eight fumbles and totaled 78 tackles.
The defense as a whole allowed 407 yards and 23.5 points per game.
Last year could have been far better for Mines, if not for close games. Four of the Orediggers five losses came by margins of defeat of two touchdowns or less. The lone blowout was to Western New Mexico, 54-28.
The Orediggers lost by 14 to then second-ranked CSU-Pueblo on Oct. 13 and finished the season with a 20-14 loss to no. 21 Chadron State. Mines put up 45 points or more on four occasions last year, including 57 and 71 in back-to-back weeks to open the year against William Jewel College and South Dakota School of Mines.
This will be the first meeting between the two schools.
The next installment of the Better Know an Opponent series features Brevard and will be available Friday morning.