Blocked extra point lifts Mavs to 2OT win
GOLDEN — Colorado Mesa University’s football team has certainly enjoyed some big victories in the four-plus years under coach Russ Martin.
What the Mavericks accomplished Saturday afternoon might just transcend everything to date.
“Oh man, this might be the biggest win I’ve ever had,” Mesa junior Dustin Rivas said after blocking a PAT in the second overtime to seal a thrilling 41-40 victory over No. 10 Colorado School of Mines. “It’s one of the greatest games I’ve ever played in.”
It was all that and more. The 23rd-ranked Mavericks blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter, only to see a potential game-winning field goal by the Orediggers go wide right in the final seconds of regulation.
The two teams traded touchdowns in each overtime, but Rivas split the seam on the game-tying try and stuffed freshman Scott Marshall’s attempt. That set off a raucous celebration that saw Colorado Mesa swarm Campbell Field in its first visit to Marv Kay Stadium.
“Those are the memories right there. That’s what this game is about,” Rivas said. “When you look around and you see your team running all over — it’s giving me chills right now just talking about it. It’s just an awesome experience.”
The victory kept the Mavericks (3-0 in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play) atop the conference standings. More importantly, it gave Mesa a huge dose of confidence headed into this week’s road trip to Fort Lewis, with CSU-Pueblo visiting Grand Junction the following weekend.
Martin emphasized that what took place in Golden was all about a process that began five years ago.
“It gives them even more reason to continue to believe in themselves and everything they have done to put themselves here,” Martin said. “This win today was not something that just was accomplished today. This was a win that was accomplished over five years of hard work.”
Sean Rubalcaba overcame an injury that knocked him temporarily from the game in the second half to throw for 241 yards and three touchdowns. He connected on a 14-yard strike to David Tann in the first overtime, then found Virnel Moon for an 18-yard touchdown pass in the second OT.
Josh Brown hauled in six catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns — the second from Mesa backup quarterback Eystin Salum in the third quarter. Moon and Marcus Hines each had four receptions.
“Sean was hurting this game. He took a lot of hits,” Moon said. “But we kept faith. He toughed it out and came back in. That last touchdown he took a huge hit.
“That guy has guts. I love that guy. He has all my respect.”
After Colorado Mesa went up 27-13 late in the third quarter, the wheels fell off a bit for the Mavericks.
Mines senior Justin Dvorak enjoyed a record-setting day, passing Chad Friehauf for first place in the Orediggers’ record books for passing yards. He also became the first Mines QB to top 10,000 passing yards for a career after throwing for 485 yards and four touchdowns. Brody Oliver and Ty Young each snared two scores.
Dvorak tossed a pair of TD passes in the fourth quarter, but the Mavericks forced a fumble in the red zone and Carlos Aviles intercepted Dvorak on the ensuing drive. Antonio Clark also had an interception in the end zone at the end of the first half.
CMU’s offense was limited to minus-13 yards of total offense in the fourth quarter, but bounced back in overtime.
“We knew what type of offense we were, and that fourth quarter wasn’t the type of offense we are,” Moon said. “We usually drive the ball and score within seconds. We didn’t know what was going on, but we knew that since we were going to overtime, we had another chance.”
Marshall, who had missed a 23-yard field goal and a PAT earlier in the game, just missed a 41-yarder at the end of the fourth quarter.
Rivas believed he had a chance to block Marshall’s first extra-point try in overtime, so he was more than ready when given a second opportunity.
“I’m just so proud of these guys. They put themselves in position to play for a championship,” Martin said. “We’re going to cherish this one.”