Mesa can play spoiler, end season on high note

Today might be the final game of the season for the Mesa State College football team, but the Mavericks still have a lot to accomplish.

Mesa State (5-5, 5-3 RMAC) could upend eighth-ranked Nebraska-Kearney (9-1, 8-0 RMAC) and its hopes of hosting an NCAA Division II first-round playoff game.  Kickoff is at 1 p.m. at Stocker Stadium.

The Mavericks can give their 13 seniors a victory in their last game and give the returning players a boost of confidence heading into the offseason. Mesa starts nine underclassmen on offense, including the entire offensive line and backfield, and five more on defense.

A win would give the Mavericks’ their third consecutive winning season.

The Lopers, who have won nine consecutive games, are ranked fourth in the NCAA Central Region. The top six teams qualify for the playoffs.

Here are five things to watch in today’s game:

1) Run game: The Mavericks’ seventh-ranked defense against the run (76.3 yards allowed per game) faces the nation’s fifth-best running game (258.2 yards per game), led by Rustin Dring (131.6 yards per game).

2) Pass protection: The Lopers, who lead the nation in sacks (43), will look for more against Mesa’s young quarterbacks.

3) Pass rush: Mesa might have to find a creative way to get to Kearney QB Jake Spitzlberger. The Lopers have allowed 13 sacks this season.

4) Third and long: Can Mesa State convert on third down against Kearney’s defense (27.6 percent success rate on third down conversions)?

5) Turnovers: The Lopers have forced 25 and have only had 13. Mesa committed 18 turnovers and forced 23.


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