But no one anticipated that the Eagles would fly as high as they did. After all, they were pegged for third in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference’s preseason poll and none of the prognosticators mentioned them as a potential top 20 team nationally after the Eagles had gone 4-6 in 2005. But things definitely fell into place and it truly became a season to remember. Some of the highlights included:
--Defeating NCAA Division I-AA Montana State 35-24 a week after the Bobcats had upset the Colorado Buffalos 19-10.
--Winning the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championship with a perfect 8-0 record.
--Finishing the regular season with an 11-0 record and then winning the first playoff game in the team’s history. No CSC football team had previously won more than 10 games.
--Earning a No. 5 ranking in the final American Football Coaches Association poll. This is CSC’s highest ranking on record.
The win over Montana State was a confidence-builder. The Eagles jumped out a 14-0 lead and added two more touchdowns before halftime. After that, both the Eagles and the opponents knew it was going to take a mighty good team to beat them.
It did. Nearly three months later Northwest Missouri, which entered the game ranked No. 2 in the nation and with its own 12-0 record, finally snapped the Eagles’ win skein. The score was 28-21. The Bearcats defeated Bloomsburg 33-3 the next week and lost by just a 17-14 score to Grand Valley State in the national championship game.
The Eagles were never really threatened in a majority of their games. They trailed West Texas A&M 17-12 at halftime of the second-round playoff game, but outscored the Buffaloes 31-0 in the second half.
Several times they led by only a handful of points at halftime, but dominated in the second half. They often took charge in the third period, when they outscored their foes 146-38.
The offense featured Danny Woodhead, college football’s first 2,700-yard rusher, but it also had an effective and efficient passing attack, one that completed almost exactly 60 percent of its attempts, the highest in CSC history.
As a unit, the defense undoubtedly had the most speed in Chadron State history. That meant the foes had difficulty making big plays. No team had more than one 20-yard scoring play against the Eagles. Some defenses bend but don’t break. This one didn’t even bend very often.
The Eagles finished third nationally in rushing offense at 259.4 yards a game, third in scoring offense at 36.8 points a game and sixth in total offense at 420.2 yards a game. They didn’t waste many scoring chances, cashing in on 46 of 51 red zone (inside the opponents’ 20) opportunities. They were successful on 46 percent of their third-down situations. They allowed just 11 quarterback sacks in 13 games.
On the other side of the ball, the Eagles finished seventh in rushing defense, giving up just 74.7 yards a game, were 18th in total defense, yielding only 251.2 yards a game; and ranked 21st scoring defense, allowing just 15.3 points a game. Both of the latter figures were inflated when the coaches cleared the bench late in several games after building big leads.
The experience the non-starters gained will likely pay off next season, when the Eagles expect to do well again. Nineteen players who were regulars this year are due to return.
This year’s team not only dominated the RMAC on the field, it also led the way academically. Twenty-four Eagles received the conference’s scholar-athlete award. No other school had more than 15.
Head Coach Bill O’Boyle is hesitant to call this year’s team the best in CSC annals, noting that the Eagles have a great tradition on the gridiron. However, he said this year’s team unity was outstanding, and undoubtedly contributed to the success.
“There was no separation (between offense and defense) on this team, and it’s the closest group I’ve ever been around. I think that’s what sets these guys apart.”
O’Boyle added that the seven long bus trips that the varsity made may have contributed to the closeness that the Eagles achieved.
The Eagles also were fortunate from a health standpoint. Senior Eric Barker, a starter in the secondary the past three years, required shoulder surgery about midseason, and offensive lineman John Strand missed three early-season games with a shoulder problem, but all the other members of the travel squad were available for every game.
Outstanding depth was a factor in the Eagles’ success. When quarterback Joe McLain suffered a sprained ankle late in the first quarter of the playoff game against West Texas A&M, senior Tyler Hidrogo came to the rescue. CSC scored 36 points with Hidrogo at the controls.
Replacing Hidrogo will be one of the team’s primary issues in the off-season. Also missing next year will be three all-conference choices—Robbie Klinetobe, Jared Lee and Chase Olsen—in the offensive line along with wide receive Brady Hollaway and several stalwarts on defense, including outside linebacker Kalan Jones and safety Cody Assmann, both four-year starters.
O’Boyle also noted the Eagles will need a new punter because Scott Wewel, a junior in eligibility, expects to move on to medical school this coming fall. While Wewel averaged just 33.2 yards a punt, none of his attempts was blocked, nine of them, or fourth of them, were downed inside the opponents’ 20 and the foes managed just six punt returns for only 40 yards.
The Eagles, by contrast, had 549 yards in punt returns. Of course, the opponents were forced to punt more than twice as many times as the Eagles punted.
Records Set by the Chadron State College Football Team in 2006
Team Season Records
Most Yards Rushing—3,372 (259.4 per game). Old Record 2,887 (262.45 per game)
Individual Single Game Records
Most Yards Rushing—324 yards by Danny Woodhead vs. Wayne State. Old Record, 306 by Danny Woodhead vs. Bemidji State, 2004.
Most All-Purpose Yards—362 by Danny Woodhead vs. Fort Lewis. Old Record—332 by Danny Woodhead vs. Bemidji State, 2004.
Best Pass Completion Percentage—8-8 by Joe McLain vs. Colorado Mines. Old Record, 6-6 by Lee Baumann vs. Peru State, 1970.
Individual Single Season Records
Most Yards Rushing—2,756 by Danny Woodhead. Old Record—1,840 by Danny Woodhead, 2004.
Best Rushing Average—8.0 yards carry (344-2,756) by Danny Woodhead. Old Record—7.41 (61-452) by Jim Schwartz, 1960.
Most All-Purpose Yards—3,158 by Danny Woodhead. Old Record—2,153 by Danny Woodhead, 2005.
Best Pass Completion Percentage—60.2 (139-231) by Joe McLain. Old Record—59.5 (25-52) by Lonnie Wickard, 1958.
Most Touchdowns Rushing—34 by Danny Woodhead. Old Record—25 by David McCartney, 1992, and Danny Woodhead, 2004.
Most Touchdowns—38 by Danny Woodhead. Old Record—27 Danny Woodhead, 2004.
Most Points—228 by Danny Woodhead. Old Record—163 by Danny Woodhead, 2004
Most Extra Points—55 by Travis Atter. Old Record—43 by Jay Masek, 1990, and Ryan Larsen, 2001.
Most Field Goals—16 by Travis Atter, 2006. Ties record set by Jay Masek, 1990.
Most Points Kick Scoring—103 by Travis Atter. Old Record—88 by Jay Masek, 1990.
Individual Career Records
Most Yards Rushing—6,365 by Danny Woodhead, 2004-06. Old Record—4,533 by David Jones, 1987-90.
Most All-Purpose Yards—7,349 by Danny Woodhead, 2004-06. Old Record—4,920 by David Jones, 1987-90.
Most Touchdowns—84 by Danny Woodhead, 2004-06. Old Record—48 by David McCartney, 1990-93.
Most Points—516 by Danny Woodhead, 2004-06. Old Record—294 by David McCartney, 1990-93.