Another missed opportunity for Mesa State football team
It’s been a season of missed opportunities for the Mesa State College football team.
Saturday was no different.
The Mavericks were able to produce 354 yards in total offense against the nation’s fifth-ranked defense, but settled for one touchdown and three field goals in a 27-16 loss to No. 13 Chadron State at Stocker Stadium.
“We knew we needed this one,” Mesa State coach Joe Ramunno said. “We were beat by a team better than us. It boils down to a lot of things. We left a lot of scoring opportunities on the field. We got a great turnover, then we’d give it back.
Every time we got in a comfort zone, we’d come out of it.”
The loss was the final home game for 12 Mesa seniors.
The loss ended the Mavericks’ slim hopes of an NCAA Division II playoff berth, but Mesa State (6-4, 6-2 RMAC) can earn a spot in the Dixie Rotary Bowl on Dec. 6 in St. George, Utah, with a victory next Saturday at Nebraska-Kearney.
The top teams in the RMAC and Great Northwest Athletic Conference that do not qualify for the NCAA playoffs receive invitations to the bowl game.
Chadron State (9-1, 8-0 RMAC) clinched its third consecutive RMAC title with its 26th consecutive RMAC victory. The Eagles look to wrap up a home playoff game with a victory next week against Western State.
“That might be one of the biggest wins since I’ve been coach here,” Chadron State coach Bill O’Boyle said. “I told (the team) that (Friday) night. Not only was this for the conference title, but what it means for the playoffs. We want to get the last one and get a home playoff game.”
The Eagles won despite giving up a season-high 117 rushing yards to one player, Bobby Coy, who passed the 4,000-yard career plateau.
“We were running it well, but we had to throw it all the time in the end,” Ramunno said.
Mesa State was poised to defeat the Eagles when Justin Murray caught an 83-yard touchdown pass from Phil Vigil, who passed for 248 yards, for a 13-10 lead with 5:51 left in the second quarter. Murray had four receptions for 155 yards.
Chadron State responded with Maurice Threatts’ 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 17-13 lead.
The Eagles attempted a 34-yard field goal on their last drive of the first half, but Joey Applehans blocked it, keeping the Mavericks within a score of the lead.
“Nate (Dolan) is on my side (of the football),” Applehans said. “Nate crashed in hard and that let me get in fast.
“That was a momentum booster. We went in the locker room psyched up, but we couldn’t come out and finish it.”
Mesa kicker Jared Keating nailed his third field goal of the game, a 49-yarder, on the Mavericks’ opening drive of the second half to get within one point, but that was as close as the Mavs got.
Chadron responded with a Joe McLain 17-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Stockton for a 24-16 lead.
The Mavericks caught a much-needed break on Chadron’s next possession when senior linebacker Ryan Kadavy intercepted McLain at the Chadron 25.
“I was happy to catch it,” Kadavy said. “I’ve dropped enough of them, that’s for sure.”
Mesa, though, gave the ball back to the Eagles when defensive end Shaine Odell pulled in a tipped pass intended for Kris Means.
Chadron put the game away with a 13-play, 6-minute drive, finishing with a 35-yard field goal by Travis Atter. McLain completed a 47-yard pass to a wide-open Evan Pilkington on the drive.
“It’s the same old mistakes that have plagued us the entire year,” Vigil said. “We had penalties on both sides. There was a lot of stuff. It was a combination of things.”