History on the gridiron
When the Mines football team returned to the gridiron this fall, the Orediggers appeared no worse for wear after a season away from competition during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, quite the opposite was true. Mines snapped its 642- day hiatus on the evening of Sept. 2, 2021, with a dominant 42-3 victory against Western Oregon at Marv Kay Stadium, and that was only the beginning of what proved to be a historic season for the Orediggers.
The following three months saw Mines football accomplish many things that had never been done in the 133-year history of the program. Seven straight wins brought the Orediggers up to No. 3 in the American Football Coaches Association National Poll for their highest ranking ever. That seven-week run included a runaway 76-0 victory at Fort Lewis and a 20-14 overtime nail-biter against Western Colorado during Minesâ€™ Homecoming weekend. Running back Michael Zeman led the early charge with more than 100 yards rushing in six of the seven wins while racking up 12 total touchdownsâ€”10 on the ground and two more receiving. The Orediggers were arguably more impressive defensively through those first seven games, with 59 tackles for loss, 26 sacks, seven interceptions and six forced fumbles which were all recovered.
Minesâ€™ late-October stumble at Colorado Mesa, in which the Orediggers nearly pulled off a last- second comeback but ultimately lost, was merely a blip on the seasonâ€™s radar. The team immediately bounced back and closed the regular season with three consecutive wins for yet another slice of history as Mines clinched its third straight Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference title. The 63-0 win in the regular- season finale against Adams State at Marv Kay Stadium also afforded Mines its 14th conference championship overall and locked the Orediggers in as Super Region IVâ€™s No. 1 seed for the NCAA playoffs, marking another first in program history. But the milestones still didnâ€™t stop there.
The Orediggers found themselves pitted against Bemidji State after taking full advantage of the first- round bye as the bracketâ€™s top seed. The result was a 55-6 blowoutâ€” Mines scored 35 of those points in the third quarter, while the defense engineered a game plan that held the nationâ€™s No. 7 offense to zero touchdowns. The Orediggers advanced to their first national quarterfinals, where they dispatched second-seeded Angelo State by a score of 34-26 and marked another Mines football high point as the Orediggers punched their first-ever ticket to the national semifinals to face Valdosta State.
The rest, as they say, is history. â€œIt feels good to do right by the guys who have gone before us,â€ said linebacker Gabriel Kortz. â€œIt also feels good looking up in the crowd and seeing all the freshmen and redshirt freshmen on the team and knowing weâ€™re doing right by them by setting up a program with a tradition of winning and success.â€
While the Orediggers ultimately ended their season in the semifinals, itâ€™s safe to say that Mines football left it all on the field as they made history on the gridiron.
Oredigger icons enshrined at Homecoming
Homecoming 2021 saw the return of many traditions and in-person activities, including the Mines Athletics Auction and Hall of Fame Banquet to honor Oredigger athletes who made historic and lasting contributions to Minesâ€™ athletic program. Four Oredigger icons were inducted into the hall of fame this year. Here is the newest class of Mines Athletics Hall of Fame members.
Anna Evans â€™14, MS â€™21
Womenâ€™s Soccer, 2010-13
Evans was the catalyst behind the transformation of Mines women’s soccer into a national power, earning three all- America and two Academic All-America honors in her career. She scored 55 goals
and 23 assists as an Oredigger and led Mines to four RMAC titlesâ€”three tournament and one regular-seasonâ€”from 2011 to 2013.
Mark Husted â€™09, PhD â€™19
Menâ€™s Cross Country and Track & Field, 2006-10
Husted is the only Oredigger to win national titles as a student-athlete and as a coach, capturing two NCAA Division II crowns on the track in the
menâ€™s distance medley relay and 800-meter and helping Mines cross country to the 2019 NCAA Division II team championship. He was a six- time all-American on the track and three-time Academic All-American.
Mack McLain â€™12, MS â€™15
Menâ€™s Cross Country and Track & Field, 2008-12
McLain is the most decorated student-athlete in Mines history as a three-time national champion and 12- time all-American for the
cross country and track & field programs. The middle-distance specialist won NCAA Division II crowns in the menâ€™s distance medley relay, 1,500-meter and mile and is Mines’ only three- time national champ.
Football Head Coach
Stitt, who coached Mines football from 2000 to 2014, won a program-record 108 games and helped put the program on the national map. He won RMAC titles in 2004, 2010 and 2014, along with the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance.