Strong finish helps Mines win fifth straight against Mesa
Colorado Mesa’s defense kept making plays, but the Colorado School of Mines’ offense made enough plays in the end.
The Orediggers scored 27 points in the fourth quarter to defeat Mesa 27-10 in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference football Saturday afternoon at Stocker Stadium, snapping the Mavericks’ four-game win streak.
Mines won for the fifth consecutive year and took home the Nyikos Cup for the third time since the inception of the trophy in 2010 between the two programs.
“There’s not any way you can take this but as a learning experience,” CMU senior linebacker Jake Edmiston said. “It hurts, it’s going to hurt, but we’ve got to bounce back next week.”
Mesa (5-3, 4-2 RMAC) plays NCAA Division II’s third-ranked team, CSU-Pueblo (7-0, 5-0 RMAC), at 6 p.m. next Saturday in Pueblo.
Mines (5-3, 4-2 RMAC) limited the Mavericks to 310 yards of total offense and 100 yards rushing. Both were the second lowest offensive totals this season for the Mavericks.
CMU quarterback Aric Kaiser completed 23 of 49 passes for 210 yards with three interceptions and one touchdown.
“If you can’t run the ball consistently, it gives them a chance to bring different pass pressures and change coverages,” CMU coach Russ Martin said. “We knew we’d see a lot of different things. We had a couple times we missed protection. We had some miscommunication with the blocking scheme. That’s stuff we’ve got to fix. Give Mines credit, they’ll go into a lot of different looks. If you’re not having consistency, it’s going to put more pressure on the quarterback.
“Is Aric capable of playing better yet? Yes, he is, but there were a couple dropped balls. If guys make plays, it changes the whole game.”
Mesa’s defense gave Kaiser and the offense plenty of opportunities to jump in front, coming up with several stops, including three on fourth down, on Mines possessions in the first half.
Cornerback Ryan Lendrum tackled a Mines running back short of the first down at the Mesa 4-yard line on the Orediggers’ first possession.
The Orediggers had an incomplete pass on fourth down on their second possession, and Edmiston sacked Mines quarterback Justin Dvorak on fourth down on the third possession.
Then Mesa’s defense started forcing turnovers.
Travis McRae recovered a Mines fumble on the Mesa 9-yard line, and Michael Brady intercepted Dvorak in Mesa territory and returned it to midfield.
“I think early on we played similar to how we’ve played all year,” Edmiston said. “We’re a bend-but-don’t-break defense. We pride ourselves on that and making plays in the red zone and getting turnovers when it looks like we’re down and out. It comes down to making plays in the fourth quarter when it really counts. They made more plays than we did. That’s why they came out on top.”
The Colorado Mines’ defense made some plays, too.
The Orediggers blocked a 43-yard field goal attempt on Mesa’s first possession, sacked Kaiser on the Mavericks’ second possession on fourth down, and intercepted Kaiser twice — all in the first half. The Mavericks did get three points on a Tanner Donahue 33-yard field goal with 10 seconds left in the first half for a 3-0 halftime lead.
Mesa’s defense continued to make plays in the second half.
Andrew Hurley recovered a Mines fumble, and Brady intercepted Dvorak in the end zone early in the fourth quarter.
“Their quarterback rolled out, one guy cut loose, I’ve got to get there and cover him,” Brady said. “The ball happened to be there, and I happened to make the play.”
The Orediggers, though, only trailed 3-0 when they started making plays.
Dvorak scored on a 2-yard touchdown run to cap a four-play, 75-yard, 31-second drive for a 6-3 lead early in the fourth quarter.
On the Orediggers’ next possession, Dvorak completed a 48-yard pass downfield against two Mesa defenders to set up a Dan Palmer 1-yard TD run and a 13-3 lead.
There was plenty of time left for the Mavericks, but the offense went three-and-out on four consecutive drives in the fourth quarter.
“We felt we were ready, but you’ve got to give Mines credit, they won the battles up front on both sides of the football,” Martin said. “We weren’t able to run the ball with any consistency. We had a couple dropped balls. They tipped a couple passes as well.
“Offensively, they were able to run the ball with more consistency. They made a couple big plays. Part of it was our defense was on the field a long time in the second half, and we had too many to many three-and-outs (on offense).”
Mines extended its lead to 20-3 on a Dvorak 13-yard pass to Tevin Champagne with 3:32 left, then Dvorak scored on a 5-yard run with 1:47 left.
“You give a team over and over opportunities, sooner or later they are going to convert,” Martin said. “They are a good football team. They are well-coached on both sides of the football. Our guys kept playing hard. It was just the number of opportunities they had, they were going to convert at some point.”
Mesa found the end zone with 30 seconds left when Kaiser hit Nate Neville for a 2-yard score.