Miscues doom Mavs in loss to Western New Mexico

Colorado Mesa quarterback Chris Henderson fumbles the ball Saturday after a hit by Western New Mexico’s Dashaun Briggs during the Mavericks’ 33-21 homecoming loss to the Mustangs.

The 1982 Mesa College football team roamed the sideline Saturday and the crowd cheered a defensive stand before halftime, but it wasn’t enough.

Colorado Mesa University couldn’t hold on to the football long enough to get in scoring position, turning the ball over seven times in a 33-21 homecoming loss to Western New Mexico at Stocker Stadium.

“I’m very, very disappointed we put on a performance like that,” Mesa coach Joe Ramunno said. “We didn’t take care of the football. I’m disappointed in the way we played.”

Western New Mexico (3-2,  2-1 RMAC) turned three of those turnovers into touchdowns and it could’ve been worse.

The Mustangs missed two field goals after a Mesa turnover and were intercepted when they were on the verge of scoring after another one of Mesa’s turnovers.

“We did this to ourselves,” Mesa senior receiver Tanner Whaley said. “Take nothing from them, but you can’t do that to yourself.”

Redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Henderson had six of those turnovers, with three fumbles, including one on a center-quarterback exchange, and was intercepted three times.

Henderson completed 14 of 24 passes for 149 yards with one touchdown.

“He was really inconsistent,” Ramunno said. “He’s a freshman, though. He’ll grow and learn from it. We’re having to grow up in a hurry.”

Colorado Mesa (1-4, 0-3 RMAC) built a 14-6 lead in the first quarter on Jake Cimolino’s 17-yard run and a 3-yard scoring run by Henderson. Cimolino had 14 carries for 121 yards.

Henderson’s score was set up by Mesa linebacker Chad Benkleman’s fumble recovery near midfield.

The Mustangs intercepted Henderson on Mesa’s next possession and scored on the first play to get within 14-13.

Western New Mexico intercepted Henderson again midway through the second quarter, but the Mesa defense forced a field goal attempt and the Mustangs missed.

A Mesa fumble on its own 18 resulted in a Mustang touchdown and gave a Western New Mexico 20-14 lead.

Mesa fumbled again in Western New Mexico territory and the Mustangs moved into field goal range, but missed a 21-yard chip shot on the final play before halftime.

The Mavs overcame five first-half turnovers when Henderson connected with Whaley for a 33-yard score for a 21-20 lead.

“We knew we had to get some crossing routes going, switch it up and make their DBs think,” Whaley said. “I ran a slant, Chris stayed with me and made a good throw.”

It was Whaley’s first touchdown reception of the season.

The game, though, quickly turned into a battle of field position after Mesa was flagged for a personal foul for taunting on the touchdown.

Although Western New Mexico had to punt on its next series, the Mustangs scored two possessions later on Koa Pahia’s 7-yard touchdown pass from David Ingram for a 26-21 lead with 1:38 left in the third quarter.

“We’re getting killed by field position completely,” Ramunno said. “We’ll get that changed. We’re not doing the fundamentals of football that you’ve got to do.”

The Mavericks turned the ball over on their next two possessions.

Western New Mexico had to punt after the first and was intercepted near the goal line after the second turnover of the second half.

With plenty of time left and the Mustangs hanging on to a 5-point lead, they mounted a 98-yard drive and scored in 1:35 to take a 33-21 lead.

The Mavericks were forced to punt on their next series and ran out of time on their final possession.

“We definitely could’ve beat them,” Benkleman said. “We should’ve. We didn’t put it together. That hurt.”


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