Dawgs start slow, finish strong in 28-7 win over UANL
By TJ MAXWELL
The defense bent but definitely didn’t break and the offense sputtered a bit before the rubber gripped the road and the Copperas Cove offense raced away to a 28-7 win over the visiting Tigres of Monterrey, Mexico’s Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León (UANL).
The Bulldawgs spotted their neighbors from the south seven points before scoring 28 unanswered points to earn the 28-7 win and even their season record at 1-1.
“We played a good football game against a good football team,” said Copperas Cove head coach and athletic director Jack Welch. “I thought we played pretty solid tonight. We made some mistakes and shot ourselves in the foot. We had too many holding penalties. We need to go back, look at that and get it corrected.”
The swarming Tigre defense kept the Bulldawg offense at bay for most of the first half and kept the running game bottled up for almost all of the 48-minute contest but, fortunately for Cove, the passing game found its groove.
The Tigres’ defense held Cove to just 69 yards on 30 carries in the contest but surrendered 236 yards and three scores through the air to the Dawgs passing game.
The Cove defense showed they were no slouches either, holding the Tigers to just 234 total yards, seven points and 3 for 14 third-down conversions.
Junior Tommy Connell led the Cove defense with eight tackles and the only takeaway of the game with an interception returned 30 yards on the Tigres’ opening drive to stop a nine-play drive for the Tigers.
“I felt like our defense really needed a key player so I stepped up and made some big plays,” said Connell. “We had a great week of practice this week and coach Welch has been teaching us a lot of defensive coverages and how to execute them. I think it was help us later on get to the playoffs.
Senior Jaylen Smith was 20 for 30 passing for 236 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Dawgs offense and found senior Floyd Connell 12 times for 147 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite putting together solid drives to begin the second half, neither team could break the goal line in the third period.
An eight-play drive by the Dawgs resulted in a turnover on downs after a failed fake punt attempt and an eight-play drive by the Tigres ended with a missed field goal attempt from 44 yards out by Reynaldo Blanco.
A pair of punts eight nearly five more minutes off the clock before the Dawgs embarked on their next scoring drive that spanned the third and fourth quarters.
Passes from Smith to Floyd Connell, along with runs by senior Tim Edwards and a personal foul call against the Tigers pushed the Dawgs inside the UANL red zone and a 14-yard run by senior Myles Alexander set up a one-yard scoring plunge by Alexander to give Cove a 21-7 lead with 11:19 left in the contest.
The Cove defense stepped up once again to end the Tigres’ drive at four plays and a punt before driving down for the final score of the contest with 6:12 remaining.
A pass from Smith to senior Kaleb Hontz for a 19-yard touchdown capped an 11-play, 61-yard drive.
Smith connected with Floyd Connell on passes of 16, 10, 20 and 11 to help set up the score.
“We knew coming into this game that they were going to be blitzing a lot and that we wouldn’t be able to run the ball a lot,” said Smith. “Having our passing offense work really well got them to back up. Then we were able to run the ball and mix up our game plan.”
The Tigres had one last opportunity to score with a 14-play drive but defensive plays by Floyd and Tommy Connell and senior Brandon Russ forced a turnover on downs with 1:23 remaining.
The Copperas Cove Bulldawgs took nearly 22 minutes of action to get on the scoreboard but less than two minutes to repeat that feat on their way to a 14-7 lead over the Tigres in the first half.
The Tigres drew first blood with a nine-play, 71 scoring drive after a pair of incomplete passes forced a turnover on downs by the Bulldawgs with 10:52 left in the second quarter.
Passes from Quiroga to Hector Carlos, along with runs by Alan Reyes, Diego Gomez and Quiroga pushed the Tigers to just outside the Bulldawg red zone.
A pass from Quiroga to Marco Garcia then put the Tigres inside the Cove 15 before a 13-yard run by Jose Degado and the extra point by Reynaldo Blanco put the Tigers on top 7-0 with 8:06 left in the half.
After punts from both teams, the Bulldawgs put together the best drive of the first half.
After a seven-yard scramble by Smith to begin the drive, passes to Bryce Ranes and Floyd Connell of 11 and 9 yards, respectively, to push Cove to just outside the Tigers red zone and a run by Myles Alexander moved them just inside the 20.
Smith then found Connell for a 19-yard touchdown pass to knot the game at 7-all with 2:46 left after the Mutt extra point.
After punts by both squads chewed up most of the remining clock, the Bulldawgs gotthe ball back near midfield with 1:05 remaining.
A pair of 12 yard passes to Hontz and a 15-yard connection to Connell quickly put the Dawgs near the red zone and a facemask against the Tigres pushed Cove to the four-yard line where Smith found Connell for the go ahead score.
“I didn’t get down,” Smith said about the offense’s slow start. “I stayed up and I told them we were good. Even though we started off slow, I told them we were going to score twice before the half then come back out in the second half and put more points on the board.”
Alexander led the Cove running backs with 11 carries for 37 yards and a touchdown while junior Shontez Simmons added four carries for 14 yards.
Hontz followed Connell in receiving with three catches for 43 yards and a touchdown and Ranes had three catches for 28 yards.
Joining Tommy Connell amongst the defensive leaders was senior defensive end Brandon Simmons with six tackles (including two for losses) and a sack and senior Brandon Russ with five tackles. 10 different Cove defenders registered at least two tackles.
Tigre quarterbacks Patricio Quiroga and David Trejo combined for 13 of 23 passing and an interception for UANL for 80 yards. Alan Reyes led the Tiger running backs with 16 carries for 62 yards and Jose Delgado added five totes for 37 yards and a touchdown.
Angel Trevino led the receivers with two catches for 16 yards while three more receivers had 15 yards apiece.
Luis Arellano led the Tigers’ defense with five tackles.
Welch knows that, despite the win, there are some definite teaching moments.
The Dawgs had 10 penalties for 100 yards and several dropped passes in the contest.
“The penalties were the eyesore and dropping the passes,” he said. “Besides that, I thought we played a pretty solid football game.”
The Dawgs will get another tough road test this Friday when they travel to Andrews to face El Paso Franklin with a 7 p.m. kickoff.