Colorado Mesa Football Preview

Colorado Mesa’s Marcus Cross, 17, nearly intercepts a pass last week against Western New Mexico. The Mavs are No. 1 in Division II with 15 interceptions in six games.

Colorado Mesa quarterback Aric Kaiser earned his coach’s praise for his play in the second half of last week’s win over Western New Mexico.

Colorado Mesa (4-2, 3-1 RMAC) vs. Fort Lewis (2-4, 1-3 RMAC)

Kickoff: 1 p.m., Saturday, Ray Dennison Field, Durango.

On the Air: 1230-AM (KEXO).

Internet: Visit for live stats and streaming video.

Last Week

Colorado Mesa won its third straight game, defeating Western New Mexico 22-17. Fort Lewis lost its second consecutive game, 51-16 to Colorado Mines.

Series History

Colorado Mesa leads 28-10. The Mavericks have won the past six meetings and are 11-3 all-time against Fort Lewis in Durango.

About Fort Lewis

■ The Skyhawks have seven Division I transfers and 37 college transfers on their roster.

■ Fort Lewis is last in the RMAC in scoring (16.7 points per game) and second to last in scoring defense (34.7 ppg).

■ The Skyhawks have allowed 28 sacks in six games (last in the RMAC).

■ Punter Scottie Gallardo, a transfer from the University of Colorado, leads the RMAC in punting with a 46.0-yard average per punt.

■ Senior DE Broderick Sargent is second in the RMAC with five sacks.

What Coach John L. Smith says

■ On his vision for the program: “It’s going to take some time, but what we’ve done is gotten commitments to up the limit where the league is scholarship-wise. If you’re not on a level playing field, there’s not much chance to be good. From here on out, continue funding. Develop monetary funds to put together a staff and keep a good staff. Facilities. As I go around and see the different places in the league, we need to keep up. Let’s do it right.”

■ On the 2013 season: “We’ve played decently at home. That’s something for us to build on. As we go out, it seems like we get worn down. Looking back at the Pueblo game, we should be leading at halftime, then we cave in. It was the same situation as last week at Mines. We have to be more mentally tough.”

■ On the Mavericks: “They are a good football team. They’re fighting for a league championship with a lot to play for. They have a lot of good personnel. Maybe the scheme of what they do lends to having better depth.”

■ On Mesa’s offense: “I really like their running back. He is a good football player. Their backup is a good back as well. I’m extremely impressed. I like the quarterback. He throws a nice ball. He’s got some moxie about him. He’ll take what he’s given, yet he can still run. If you force him out of the pocket, he can make things happen.”

■ On Mesa’s defense: “What they’re doing is creating havoc with everyone they play. They have all these different things going and confuse people. When they do come after you, it reminds me a little bit of what we saw in the NFL. The last few Super Bowl winners used a 3-4 (scheme) and were bringing pressure off one edge, the middle. Who knows where they bring it from?”

About Colorado Mesa

■ The Mavericks’ defense ranks first in Division II in interceptions (15), fifth in turnover margin (plus-11), sixth in red-zone defense (56 percent) and 16th in scoring defense (16.8 points per game).

■ Colorado Mesa is outscoring its opponents 41-13 in the fourth quarter this season.

■ Junior RB Jake Cimolino is 32nd in the nation and third in the RMAC with 105.3 rushing yards per game.

■ Senior LB Jake Edmiston is first in the nation in total tackles with 14.8 per game and is second in solo tackles with 7.5 per game.

■ The last time Mesa blocked a punt was against Fort Lewis in 2010. The last time a Maverick returned a punt for a touchdown was Trevor deBraga in 2012 against Fort Lewis.

What Coach Russ Martin says

■ On QB Aric Kaiser: “The second half he played really well. The first half he was a little rusty. He kept playing better and better and was very good in his decisions.”

■ On CMU’s defense: “We’ve been creating turnovers, but I know they want to score on defense. They are doing a phenomenal job. We don’t want to give up as many yards, but that’s natural. Every defense wants to be a three-and-out defense. That’s been one of the keys, creating turnovers.”

■ On Fort Lewis: “They got some Division I transfers, they got a lot of junior college guys, and their better guys stuck around. Their talent level is definitely up. I think the direction of the program is going up. For those kids, it’s a lot easier to believe in a guy coming from multiple Division I schools and (has) had success.”

■ On the Fort Lewis offense: “They run multiple formations. They like to run some power football, play-action pass and spread it out. They’ll give you a lot of different looks.”

■ On the Fort Lewis defense: “They’ve been in a lot of different fronts this year. Sometimes, you don’t know what they’ll be in. (Defensive coordinator Ed Rifilato) he’s sound in what he does. He doesn’t get overly complicated.”

■ On Fort Lewis DE Sargent: “He’s pretty dang good. He’s is a high-motor kid and plays hard. He’s good with his hands and gets off the block well.”

■ On the key to victory: “They don’t beat themselves as much as they did. They play sounder with positive expectations. If we can get out in front of them early, that is a huge advantage. We’ve got to play good, sound football from the start and take advantage of opportunities.”

­­— Allen Gemaehlich


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