Colorado Mesa Football Preview
COLORADO MESA (2-2, 1-1 RMAC) vs. N.M. Highlands (2-2, 1-1 RMAC)
Kickoff: 1 p.m., Saturday, Perkins Stadium, Las Vegas, N.M.
On the Air: 1230-AM (KEXO).
Internet: Visit http://www.cmumavericks.com for live stats and streaming video.
■ Colorado Mesa set an RMAC record with seven interceptions to defeat Black Hills State 49-11.
■ Highlands lost 30-10 to Colorado School of Mines.
The Mavericks lead 27-9. Highlands has won the past two meetings, including a come-from-behind 40-36 victory last year at Stocker Stadium.
About New Mexico Highlands
■ The Cowboys are the most penalized team in the RMAC with 44 penalties for an average of 113.5 yards per game. They are one of the most penalized teams in the nation.
■ Highlands leads the RMAC in sacks with 18, and Mesa has allowed the most in the RMAC (12).
■ Quarterback Emmanuel Lewis is second in the RMAC with 274.3 passing yards per game. He has completed 63.5 percent of his passes for 1,097 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions.
■ Freshman wide receiver Josh Nobles is second in the RMAC with 32 catches, averaging 94.5 yards per game.
■ Highlands has six returning players on offense and six returning players on defense, and the majority of its players are juniors and seniors.
Highlands Coach Eric Young says:
■ About progress of team with new faces this year: “We know we have all the pieces to the puzzle. We haven’t been able to put together a complete game. It’s been a growing process. We had a great test last week. We kind of failed the test. We got beat in most phases of the game.”
■ About QB Emmanuel Lewis: “Everything offensively certainly goes through Manny. He’s been in a difficult situation. A vast majority of his receivers moved on. His leadership has been fantastic through the process. The timing and comfort with the receiving corps is a process. He hasn’t had that breakout game, but he is making good decisions.”
■ About the difference the Cowboys’ pass rush is making: “We’re definitely an aggressive defense. We like to get after the quarterback. That’s been successful for us. We’re right up there with big plays behind the line of scrimmage. We’ve had some breaks at times and given up points.”
■ About CMU’s Jake Cimolino and the Mavericks’ offense: “He’s a great player. I think that’s something everybody knows. Their offense goes through Jake. He’s off to another tremendous start. That offense goes as Jake goes. When they establish the run game, they are tough to stop.”
■ About CMU’s defense: “They throw so much at you. Coach (Todd) Auer comes out with so many different looks. He’s got them playing fast. They are aggressive with what they do. They are a good solid group. They have 11 guys working together. Manny’s got to make good decisions.”
■ About the keys to this game: “The turnover margin is the biggest stat there is. We have not done a great job of taking care of the football. Our offense can be explosive, but you’ve got to have the football. Mesa is playing great. We’ve got to match that and play with great energy and take advantage of a home crowd. Mesa’s looking to make a push. We’ll find out about ourselves this week.”
About Colorado Mesa
■ The Mavericks rank second in the nation with 11 interceptions this season. Mesa has a plus-6 turnover margin.
■ Mesa has outscored its opponents 38-6 in the fourth quarter this season.
■ Junior RB Jake Cimolino is fourth in the RMAC with 104.5 rushing yards per game. He ranks fourth all-time in career rushing yards at CMU with 2,757. He needs 79 to surpass Charles Dukes (2001-04) for third place.
■ Senior linebacker Jake Edmiston is sixth in Division II in total tackles, averaging 12.8 per game. He has 163 career tackles.
■ QBs Aric Kaiser (knee) and Kyle Duran (knee) are healthy and available. CMU coach Russ Martin said Duran or Jason Haferman likely will start.
■ Junior running back Ricky Trinidad tore a ligament in his right knee in last week’s victory over Black Hills State and is out for the season. He is one of three University of Nebraska-Kearney transfers who are out for the season with knee injuries.
■ Injury report: Offensive lineman Mitch Wehrli (concussion), defensive end Mitch Irwin (concussion) and wide receiver Nate Neville (hamstring) are probable. Defensive end Will Harvey (hernia) is out.
CMU Coach Russ Martin says:
■ About team’s play in the red zone: “Defensively we played tremendously tough in the red zone. One of the things we do every day in practice is spend time in the red zone. I think it’s really helping us on both sides of the ball. We haven’t been as effective as we want offensively.”
■ About his offense possibly turning a corner: “We’re gradually getting better and better. Part of it comes with game repetitions. We have a lot of new faces offensively. For the most part, we have two new faces at quarterback. It takes a little bit of time to develop, but the guys are getting better, and that’s what’s exciting.”
■ About New Mexico Highlands: “They’re always a very talented football team. I don’t think they feel like they’ve jelled yet by any means. We’re playing a tough football team in their environment.”
■ About Highlands QB Emmanuel Lewis: “He is a very good quarterback. He’s athletic. You have to keep him contained. He can throw the football, and he can run.”
■ About Highlands’ defense: “Defensively, they are big and talented. They’re going to pressure you. They’ll play man, they’ll mix in some zone. They’re not afraid to get in your grill.”
■ About the keys to victory: “We have to be fundamentally sound. We have to reduce the penalties, take care of the football, and we’ll have a chance. We have to stay disciplined and focused on our game plan.”