Colorado Mesa Football Preview

Jason Haferman gets the start at quarterback Saturday for Colorado Mesa in place of Aric Kaiser, who is suspended for the first half for violating team rules.

Colorado Mesa (5-3, 4-2 RMAC) vs. No. 3 CSU-Pueblo (8-0, 6-0 RMAC)

Kickoff: 6 p.m., Saturday, DeRose ThunderBowl, Pueblo.

On the Air: 1230-AM (KEXO).

Internet: Visit for live stats and streaming video.

Last Week

Colorado Mines defeated Colorado Mesa 27-10.

CSU-Pueblo rolled to its 28th consecutive RMAC victory, 51-17 over Black Hills State.

Series History

Colorado Mesa is 6-7-1 against CSU-Pueblo since becoming a four-year program, but the ThunderWolves have won the past three games.

About CSU-Pueblo

■ The ThunderWolves are ranked third in the coaches national poll and
No. 1 in the NCAA Super Regional poll, which determines NCAA playoff teams.

■ CSU-Pueblo is first in the RMAC and sixth in the nation in scoring offense (45.4 points per game).

■ Sophomore running backs Chris Ashe and Cameron McDondle have rushed for 1,266 yards this season. Ashe is averaging 84.1 yards per game. McDondle is averaging 84.7 per game.

■ Defensive end Darius Allen is fourth in the nation and first in the RMAC with 9.5 sacks.

Coach John Wristen says

■ About this year’s season: “I think we’ve been very lucky and fortunate to be in this situation. We’re growing each week. I’m happy with our young guys and the mentality of playing hard on every snap. These guys are able to grasp that. We’ve faced some adversity with over seven different starters not playing because of injuries or suspensions.”

■ About junior QB Chris Bonner: “He has done a nice job of filling big shoes from Ross Dausin. It’s neat to see him operate and fun to see his growth.”

■ About CSU-Pueblo’s defense: “The strength of team is our defensive line. We rotate nine guys in there, and they are doing a great job. We’re going to need it.”

— About Colorado Mesa: “I think they are much better than they were last year. You see nine, 10, 11 guys around the ball on defense. They’re finding their guys. They’re on track to be a power in the RMAC. I consider them a great rivalry. It’s a great opportunity.”

About Colorado Mesa

■ The Mavericks continue to lead NCAA Division II with 19 interceptions. They also rank first in turnovers gained (27) and eighth in turnover margin (plus-1.5). They are first in the RMAC and 12th in the nation in scoring defense (16 points per game).

■ Junior Teddy Silanto last week had the first blocked extra-point attempt since Mesa blocked an extra point against N.M. Highlands on Sept. 29, 2012.

■ Senior LB Jake Edmiston leads the nation in total tackles (15.5 per game) and solo tackles (8.3 per game). He has recorded 15-plus tackles in each of the past four games.

■ Quarterback Aric Kaiser had season highs for completions (23) and attempts (49) against Colorado Mines. The redshirt freshman completed passes to eight different receivers.

■ Senior Jason Haferman is starting at QB in place of Kaiser, who is suspended, along with guard Nick Leonard, for the first half for violating team rules.

■ On the injury front, defensive end Zach Beach (shoulder) is doubtful. Safety Travis McRae (ankle) and cornerback Cody Daniels (shoulder) are probable.

Coach Russ Martin says

■ About last week’s loss to Mines: “It’s one of those losses that hurt because we had chances to win the game, but we weren’t able to put the game away when we had a chance. We had chances to score points in the first half and get two or three scores up and didn’t. ... Our defense was on the field way too long in the fourth quarter.”

■ About his team’s focus for rest of the season: “We told the team we have a chance to play the No. 3 team in the country. What a great opportunity that is. Let’s get ourselves ready and see what kind of football team we can be. If we can beat Pueblo, that can erase a lot of the other stuff. It shows what we’re capable of doing.”

■ About CSU-Pueblo: “On paper, it is no matchup. They are loaded. They are as big or bigger than Montana State. They’re very good. They have a great program and continue to build. They’ve got the financing with scholarships. They have great continuity with their staff. They are going to be extremely good for years to come.”

■ About CSU-Pueblo’s offense: “They have some sophomores in there, but they’ve been in the program a couple years. They can run the football. They can control the passing game, and with play-action can take some shots down field. They run the football so well, it forces the safeties up.”

■ About CSU-Pueblo’s defense: “Darius Allen is really good. Tony Compton is active. He’s the little guy there at 6-1. Morgan Fox is a special player, too. What’s scary is their backups are just as good as their starters.”

■ About the key to victory: “We’ve got to get some points on the board early. We’ve got to control the football and get some first downs, both from a standpoint of keeping our defense off the field, but also to manage field position. You’ve got to get a couple breaks in there somewhere.”

—Allen Gemaehlich


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