Staying the course

With RMAC play beginning, Mesa's Martin won't change how he calls plays

When backed up on their own goal line, most teams will run the ball to give their offense some room to operate. Colorado Mesa coach Russ Martin might run the ball, as he did here with Jonathon Beverly getting the carry against Midwestern State, or he could choose to throw the ball and generate a big play. Martin won’t change his play-calling, just his team’s execution of the plays he calls.


Adams State (0-2) at Colorado Mesa (1-1)

Saturday, 7 p.m.,
Stocker Stadium

Radio: KNZZ (1100-AM) Video: (free)

Players to watch

Offense: DJ Hubbard, CMU RB; Virnel Moon, CMU WR; Auston Hillman, ASU QB; Phil Romero, ASU WR.

Defense: Dustin Rivas, CMU CB; Carlos Aviles, CMU LB; John Flowers, ASU DB; Phil Regan, ASU DB.

Special teams: Austin Pitchford, CMU P; Ryan Sheehan, CMU PK; Hansley Fleurejus, ASU KR; Zach Cimaglia, ASU P.

Some fans might have been wondering what in the heck Russ Martin was doing, calling for a pass down the middle of the field from Colorado Mesa University’s own 3-yard line last Saturday night.

And they were groaning when Sean Rubalcaba’s pass was intercepted only one play after Midwestern State kicked a field goal.

But you know what? Martin would do it again in a heartbeat.

The Colorado Mesa football coach won’t be mistaken for a riverboat gambler, but he’s not afraid to take a shot.

“I told the quarterbacks, ‘You know what? I’d change every one of those calls if I knew that was the end result, but I wouldn’t change any of those calls because I know what our guys are capable of,’ ” Martin said Tuesday as he reflected on two interceptions and some other key errors in the Mavericks’ 16-13 overtime loss to Midwestern State.

After Rubalcaba was injured, Aric Kaiser came in and directed the Mavericks on the game-tying drive and had a shot at a touchdown in overtime, but he was intercepted at the 2 when he didn’t see safety Dominique Rouse closing in on the route.

Midwestern State eventually kicked the winning field goal.

As Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play begins, Martin is clear: The Mavericks will not change how they play, but they’ll work to change the execution.

The next time he calls that play, Rubalcaba knows he needs to put a little more on the throw, get it out maybe a foot farther, and the Mavericks are celebrating six points instead of sending the defense back on the field to prevent six the other way.

“Would we call that same play at the 4-yard line again? Not if I know it’s going to be intercepted, but at the same time, I know Sean can make that throw, and Virnel (Moon) can make that catch and take it to the end zone,” Martin said. “Now you score from your own 4-yard line, you stop a team down there, and you throw that 96-yard touchdown, a potential momentum changer? Yeah.”

And the next time Kaiser is in the red zone in a similar situation, he’ll make one more check before throwing the ball, look off the receiver, maybe even take a sack and settle for a field goal, but Martin liked Kaiser’s attitude of playing to win.

“It wasn’t a bad decision. It was an incorrect decision,” Martin said. “He wanted so much to have us up by a touchdown. We didn’t have to (score a TD) the way our defense was playing, but at the same time, if you settle for a field goal and they come down and score a touchdown, you should have put more focus on getting a touchdown.

“We’re going to coach to win every single week.”

Every single week from here on out will tell if the Mavericks can indeed challenge for the RMAC championship.

To a man, the players don’t worry that they play in the same conference as the defending national champion, CSU-Pueblo, which has won the past four conference titles.

They don’t worry that Colorado School of Mines is also nationally ranked and has two lopsided victories with a quarterback who is well on the way to a record season, already throwing for a dozen touchdowns in only two games.

“If you look at it, everybody is coming in on a relatively equal basis,” Martin said of the RMAC’s two weeks of nonconference play. The RMAC went 7-13 all told, with Mines the only 2-0 team in the conference. CMU, Chadron State, CSU-Pueblo, Fort Lewis and Western New Mexico split their nonconference games.

“There are four or five teams that are going to be really strong and can win it all, and yet, you’ve got an entire group of teams that any one of them can beat those four or five on any week,” Martin said. “You’d better be ready to play because as we move ahead, I think it’s going to be an exciting season.”

One of those teams that the upper tier needs to be wary of is coming into Stocker Stadium on Saturday night. Adams State (0-2) is adapting to new coach Timm Rosenbach’s system, and it has a quarterback, Auston Hillman, made for the multiple-set scheme.

The Grizzlies will mix in run-read sets with play-action. They throw to the tight end, and Hillman can throw it deep. He threw for 330 yards last week in a 44-30 loss to Eastern New Mexico.

For the Mavericks to be in the hunt for their first RMAC title since 2003, Martin said, it’s a case of staying on track and keeping the faith.

“They believe we can beat anybody on our schedule and anybody we have to face,” Martin said. “That’s the biggest thing. At some point you want that one break.

“Coach (Marcus) Patton shared with the team a phenomenal point: You don’t have to make the special play. You’ve just got to do your job. Doing your job, at some point, will put you into position to make the special play, but don’t think you have to make the special play. Just do your job, and the team will make a special play somewhere.

“We’ve got guys who want to do it, just don’t press.”


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