A tough test
Orediggers first up in a brutal two-game stretch for Mavs
Colorado Mesa’s hopes for winning a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference football title didn’t die with the loss last week to Fort Lewis, but the challenge became much more difficult.
The Mavericks’ next two games are against the two teams tied for first place in the RMAC: 18th-ranked Colorado School of Mines and ninth-ranked CSU-Pueblo.
Mesa plays the Orediggers at 11 a.m. Saturday at the North Area Athletic Complex in Arvada, which has been Mines’ temporary home while its football field is being renovated this season.
“I told the players (the Orediggers) are the best team we’ve faced to date,” CMU coach Russ Martin said. “They are sound in every phase. Offensively, they are explosive and can score a lot of points. They can also eat up the clock with long drives. They can utilize the controlled passing game. You can’t stop them, you have to slow them down.”
Martin said his team will have to rebound from its disappointing loss last week.
“This is a tough week to be consistent,” Martin said. “Our players will have to respond both mentally and physically. Even though everyone sees Mines as a passing team, they are a physical football team.”
The Orediggers (7-1, 5-1 RMAC) lead the nation in total offense, averaging 537 yards per game, and first downs with 29.9 per game. They also lead the RMAC in scoring offense (40.5 points per game) and are second in the nation and RMAC in passing offense (400.9 yards per game) to New Mexico Highlands.
“We’ll be mixing in coverages and pressures in hopes of disrupting their timing,” Martin said. “They are big up front, and if you let them, they’ll run the ball on you and put you in a bind. If you think you’re going to live with just the blitz, Coach (Bob) Stitt has been around the block, they’ll find the big play. You’ve got to give them different looks and force pre-snap decisions for a chance for a turnover.”
Mines leads the RMAC in run defense, allowing 107 yards per game. They are second in the RMAC in sacks with 26.
“We’ve got to get first downs to keep them off the field,” Martin said. “When we get the opportunity to score, we score. We have to take care of the football, and we have to run the ball well.”
Colorado Mesa can still win the RMAC title with a little help.
If the Mavericks win their final three games of the season, and Chadron State loses one of its final three games, CMU would win its first RMAC title since 2003.
Colorado Mines needs to win its final three games and have CSU-Pueblo lose one of its final three games to win the RMAC title.
Points off Turnovers
Colorado Mesa ranks ninth in the nation and leads the RMAC in turnovers gained at 22. The Mavericks have turned those 22 turnovers into 103 points this season.
Mesa has turned the ball over 16 times, leading to 34 points.
Ian Juede injured his foot early in the game last week and will not play against Mines. He may not return this season.
The senior is the Mavericks’ leading receiver despite missing the first game of the season with a broken hand. He has 30 catches for 317 yards and three touchdowns in seven games.
Quarterback Aric Kaiser and defensive tackle Wes Sorensen are out with injuries. Several other players are nursing minor injuries.
A Good Foot
CMU freshman punter Austin Pitchford ranks fourth in the nation and third in the RMAC in punting at 44.6 yards per punt. He has 16 punts longer than 50 yards and 15 punts inside the 20.
There will be a tailgating party for Colorado Mesa fans from 9 a.m. to kickoff at the CMU alumni tent in the south parking lot at the North Area Athletic Complex, 19500 West 64th Parkway in Arvada.
Breakfast burritos, donuts, bagels, coffee, soda and water will be provided. CMU gear will be available to purchase.