Mines narrowly falls to New Mexico Highlands 34-40

{gallery}1112/i3/fball{/gallery}Steven Wooldridge / Oredigger

There was not very much that went well for the Oredigger football team Saturday versus the University of New Mexico Highlands Cowboys. The Cowboys scored a touchdown with just 5.8 seconds remaining to snatch a stunning 40-34 victory out from under the #20 Orediggers.

The Orediggers’ execution was erratic in all phases of the game, leading to a disappointing result in a highly winnable game. Highlands improved to 3-0, 1-0 in RMAC play, while Mines fell to 2-1, 0-1.

The game started ominously for the Orediggers, with the offensive line allowing constant pressure on quarterback Clay Garcia and causing major disruption of the Oredigger attack. The defense also had interior issues, allowing a number of long gains that included a pair of first-quarter touchdown runs of 72 and 39 yards. New Mexico Highlands added a third touchdown early in the second quarter after intercepting Garcia, running the score up to 20-0. Garcia threw three interceptions on the day, all in the first half onslaught by the Cowboys.

After falling into an early 20 point hole, the Orediggers finally started to come alive, launching a quick-strike drive to get on the scoreboard as running back Dan Palmer rumbled his way over tacklers for a 14-yard touchdown run. The drive spurted a spirited Mines comeback, pulling ahead 21-20 on a fumble return for a touchdown by linebacker Alex Laudenslager. Mines seemed to be in command of the game at this point, but the Cowboys immediately answered with a pair of 60-yard touchdowns. Mines added on a late first half field goal to make the score 33-24 at the break.

The third quarter was an ugly stalemate in which both teams repeatedly sabotaged themselves with penalties. UNMH was worse in this department, ending the game with a ridiculous 20 penalties for 185 yards.

In the fourth quarter, Mines began to rally again. The Orediggers retook the lead 34-33 with 7:22 to play, following a 26-yard Colin Baker field goal and a touchdown grab by sophomore wide receiver Eric Shannon. Mines twice held off Highlands’ offense, but the Orediggers’ defensive liabilities resurfaced with a vengeance, as a series of missed tackles and a glaring coverage error allowed Highlands to drive effortlessly to the Mines six-yard line. The defense attempted a final goal-line stand, but in the end Highlands connected from two yards out for the winning touchdown with under six seconds left.

It was a disappointing loss in a very winnable game, and Mines is now playing catch-up in the RMAC title race as well. Highlands improved to 3-0, 1-0 in RMAC play, while Mines fell to 2-1, 0-1. Mines continues their season September 24 at 12:00 PM against Western New Mexico University at the Ben Altamirano Memorial Stadium in Silver City, New Mexico.

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