By Matthew Davis
In a crushing performance, the Saint Paul Pioneers displayed many turnarounds against Eau Claire in last Saturday’s 47-8 win. New players stepped up, the running game came to life and the defense looked its best.
Pioneers quarterback Cleveland McCoy found running back Riza Mahmoud twice in the first half, both with significant pressure on them in pivotal game appearances. McCoy fired a quick short pass to Mahmoud early in the second quarter, and the running back juked in the middle of the defense and turned it into a 68-yard touchdown. The pair struck again at the end of the half with McCoy’s 17-yard strike to Mahmoud for a touchdown. Anticipate seeing these two connect many more times this season.
Brian Holmes sparked an until-now quiet Pioneers running game, which had only produced one TD in their first three games. He doubled the total of Pioneers rushing touchdowns on the season in the first quarter alone.
“We were mostly one dimensional,” Holmes said. “There was a lot of passing going on. Trying to put this new spread offense in really wasn’t working. So we balanced everything out with the run, tired their defense down a little bit and went from there.”
He pounded away at the Crush offense during their opening scoring drive. His second TD came a little more easily with the team starting inside the red zone after a botched punt by the Crush.
Mahmoud also made a splash in the run game with his 73-yard rushing TD. He broke a small crowd of Crush defensive players and burst away fro the score. He finished the day with 151 yards rushing.
Vernon Johnson gave the Pioneers their fourth rushing TD on in the third quarter as he ran up the middle through the defense to reach the end zone. The Pioneers finished with 221 rushing yards as a team.
Pioneers secondary players kept the Crush passing attack in check, only allowing one pass completion for the entire first half. The Pioneers run defense accomplished more of the same as they held the Crush 1.8 yards per carry.
A shut out also looked like a possibility for the Pioneers as they had one going until 5:05 of the fourth quarter. It took a fumble by the Crush inside the Pioneers end zone and their own recovery to put points on the board.
Three different Pioneers picked off passes against the Crush. Cornerback Lionel Lamarre picked off one in the first quarter. Defensive end Val Ndikum tipped a pass in the second period, which defensive back Andre Spencer grabbed. Ndikum picked off another pass in the third quarter as well. A near turnover occurred when linebacker Bill Quistorff caused a fumble when he tackled Crush quarterback Brock Pottenger in the first quarter. Unfortunately, Pottenger scooped up the ball in time to retain position.
Special Teams Work:
While Pioneers receiver Bobby Wright’s partially blocking the Crush’s first punt certainly set the tone for the day, Pioneers special teams did show room to grow. They gave up kick returns to the 40 and 45 on the day. The Pioneers also had a couple of missed extra points.