Defense drives Mavs’ win over Western N.M.
The Colorado Mesa University football team last weekend picked up its second win of the season but its first of significance under first-year head coach Russ Martin.
The Mavericks (2-4, 2-2 RMAC) defeated a Western New Mexico team that put up 54 points on Colorado School of Mines and nearly rallied against RMAC favorite CSU-Pueblo on the road.
Colorado Mesa’s defense played a large role, limiting Western New Mexico (3-3, 2-2 RMAC) to a season-low 14 points. The Mustangs were averaging 40.8 per game.
“It was kind of a deal for the first time each one of the units fed off each other,” Martin said. “We got the second half kickoff. We took it down in 11 plays and scored a touchdown. The defense came back, made a stop. The offense came back and scored again.
“All of a sudden, it really started changing the whole nature of the game. Each time after we scored, our kickoff coverage was pinning them deep and giving them a long field to go. It was the offense, defense and special teams all feeding off each other.
“What was exciting for us as coaches was the energy, excitement and enthusiasm that this one was not getting away.”
Stopping Western New Mexico on third down was key for the Mavs. The Mustangs were 4 of 14 on third-down conversions.
“That’s one of the things Coach (Todd) Auer and the defensive staff has really emphasized to our kids is we’ve got to get off the field,” Martin said. “If you look at it, that’s what hurt us. We let some teams off the hook. That in itself goes back to what we were talking about. It’s either momentum builders or momentum breakers. If you continue to let someone convert, it takes away momentum you generated, and it changes the flow and momentum of the game.”
On Western New Mexico’s final drive, the Mustangs picked up two first downs on Colorado Mesa penalties, but the Mavericks denied a score when Jordan Price intercepted a Western New Mexico pass.
“In each one of those cases, our defense said, ‘So what? We’re still going to stop you,’ ” Martin said. “It was so good to see that in the players’ eyes: that we’re going to win this.
“We’re learning some of those lessons. That’s really the exciting part for us.”
Jake Cimolino continues to put up big numbers.
The sophomore running back had his fourth consecutive 100-yard game with 113 yards. He has rushed for 817 yards this season. He is eighth in the nation with 136.2 yards per game.
“Jake’s having a great year,” Martin said. “He had a great second half. We had a couple quarterback runs that opened it up for Jake. That’s what we want in our run game. We want to attack the front side and back side.”
“He’s playing a little bit banged up, but he’s a tough young man.”
Wide receiver Nate Neville injured his left shoulder against Western New Mexico. The injury isn’t as bad as first thought, but Neville will be out for several weeks, Martin said.
Martin said defensive end Domonique Lewis and linebacker Sean Dorrance are expected to return to action this weekend.
Martin believes Deke Cisco is close to 100 percent and could play Saturday for the first time since he injured his ankle against Chadron State.
Colorado Mesa hosts Fort Lewis College (0-5, 0-4 RMAC) at 6 p.m. Saturday at Stocker Stadium.
The Skyhawks, who lost 58-16 to Colorado Mines last week, were picked to finish eighth in the RMAC this season.
“This week may be a greater challenge than last week,” Martin said. “Last week, nobody expected us to win. The only people that expected us to win was ourselves.
“What matters is we’ve got to earn people’s respect. That’s what we addressed this week. We’re not good enough just to show up and win.”