Price’s TD lone bright spot in Mavericks’ loss
PUEBLO — Jordan Price couldn’t wait to return his first collegiate kickoff.
The Colorado Mesa University freshman made the most of it Saturday night with a 100-yard return for a touchdown.
“Coach said, ‘You got your one chance, so you if you take it back, you’ll be back there again,’ ” Price said. “As soon as I had the chance, I had to.”
The kickoff return, though, was the only highlight for Colorado Mesa (2-6, 1-5 RMAC), which fell to No. 8 Colorado State University-Pueblo 27-7 in front of 6,737 fans at the Neta and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl.
Price’s kickoff return quickly changed the momentum after CSU-Pueblo’s opening drive resulted in a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Price replaced Trent deBraga on the kickoff return team after deBraga sustained a mild concussion last week against Colorado School of Mines.
“There was a huge hole on the sideline,” Price said. “I saw that sideline and everybody in the corner of my eye coming at me, then I saw that huge gap to my left. I took it and turned on that 4.3 (speed).”
It was the Mesa’s first kickoff return for a touchdown since Joe Krile’s return Nov. 6, 2004 against Nebraska-Kearney.
Price’s kickoff return tied a Mesa State record for the longest kickoff return for a touchdown. Jerry Larghe had a 100-yard return in 1982.
“It gave everybody energy,” Price said. “I was hyped. The team was hyped. I’m not going to lie, from that point I thought we were going to win this game. We had energy.”
Instead, each team’s defense tightened up until 9:08 remained in the second quarter. That’s when CSU-Pueblo quarterback Ross Dausin completed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Roger Pfannenschmid for a 14-7 lead.
Price’s second opportunity to return a kickoff was stuffed by Beldy Nseka at the 20.
CSU-Pueblo (8-0, 6-0 RMAC) didn’t allow Mesa a single point the rest of the way. The Mavericks only made it into Pueblo territory three other times.
The ThunderWolves limited Colorado Mesa to 16 first downs and 225 yards in total offense.
“We’re excited to play our (defensive) schemes and try to mix up their reads a bit,” CSU-Pueblo coach John Wristen said. “We try to keep the ball in front of us. We were able to get a couple picks that changed the momentum of the game. That’s how we’ve played all year.”
CSU-Pueblo’s defense created confusion for Mesa quarterback Steve Romero, intercepting him four times.
CSU-Pueblo free safety Jon Bailey intercepted Romero near midfield and returned it 21 yards into scoring territory with more than two minutes left in the first half.
Josh Costa picked off Romero early in the third quarter to set up a touchdown for a 21-7 lead.
Price returned the kickoff into Pueblo territory and the Mavs moved to the 29 after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, but Romero was sacked and threw an incomplete pass, forcing the Mavs to punt.
“We’re going to utilize more and more,” Mesa coach Joe Ramunno said of Price. “We’re weaning him in a bit. He’s in there all the time, playing corner. I didn’t want to overload him early, but he’s going to get it.”
Pueblo returned the punt deep into Mesa territory, but left empty-handed, botching a field goal attempt.
The ThunderWolves added a 42-yard field goal with 22 seconds left in the third quarter for a 24-7 lead.
Mesa moved into Pueblo territory on its second possession of the fourth quarter and faced a fourth-and-4 at the Pueblo 41. Felberg caught a screen pass from Romero, but lost four yards on the play.
Pueblo kicker Kyle Major added another field goal with 4:25 left for a 27-7 lead.