Colorado Mesa uses ground game to run over Fort Lewis
DURANGO — Colorado Mesa University has a new identity, but the Mavericks went back to some old-school ways Saturday to pick up its first RMAC victory of the season.
Mesa (2-4, 1-3 RMAC) played smash-mouth football, running straight ahead and wearing down the Skyhawks (1-5, 0-4 RMAC) in a 22-3 victory at Ray Dennison Field.
The Mavericks ran for a season-high 356 yards and had 512 yards in total offense. It was the most yards the Mavericks have rushed for in a single game since they ran for 409 against Western State on Oct. 14, 2006.
“We had a breakout game today,” Will Halboth said. “It felt good. We worked hard on the inside run and it paid off.”
Halboth led the way with 138 yards on 28 carries (4.9 per carry) and one touchdown. His 28 carries were the most by a Mesa back in more than two years.
Jake Cimolino rushed for 133 yards on 24 carries (5.5 per carry).
“I feel pretty good about the way things went,” Mesa coach Joe Ramunno said. “We played some good football. We weren’t perfect by any means. We scored points and we controlled the tempo. We’re going to build on this.”
Of Mesa’s season-high 98 plays, 70 were on the ground.
“I was excited the way we ran the football today,” Ramunno said. “The whole group (of offensive linemen) played well. They always play well, but our running backs ran the ball very hard today.”
Mesa’s success running the ball made it easier for quarterback Steve Romero, who started for the first time since he was injured three weeks ago against Nebraska-Kearney.
“Shawn (Marsh, Mesa’s offensive coordinator) had a gut feeling at the start (of the game),” Ramunno said. “I don’t know if there was something bugging Chris (Henderson) or what.”
Romero completed 18 of 28 passes for 156 yards and was intercepted once.
Mesa’s defense had a pretty good day too, limiting an opponent less than 300 yards of total offense for the first time this season.
Fort Lewis had 299 yards in total offense, only 57 on the ground. The 242 passing yards were the fewest allowed by the Mesa defense this season.
“Our defense did some good things,” Ramunno said. “We have made some great stops in the red zone. We didn’t give up the big play today.”
Mesa made the big plays, taking advantage of a Fort Lewis pass interference penalty to set up the game’s only touchdown.
The penalty put the Mavs in Fort Lewis territory. Eight plays later, Halboth scored on a 2-yard run for a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter.
“We took advantage of the pass interference,” Halboth said. “We did what we said we were going to do all week, run the ball inside and we finally punched it in.”
Mesa added another field goal before the half for a 13-0 lead.
Fort Lewis had an opportunity to cut the lead to one touchdown when Tim Muhovich intercepted Romero at the CMU 30. One play later, the Skyhawks were on the CMU 2 when Mesa defensive tackle Domonique Lewis sacked Fort Lewis quarterback Tim Jenkins for a 9-yard loss. Lewis had 31⁄2 sacks in the game.
As a result, Fort Lewis settled for a field goal.
Mesa rode the momentum and kicked its third field goal of the game for a 16-3 lead.
Caleb Pavy made two more field goals in the fourth quarter.
Pavy was 5 for 5 on field goal attempts, ranging from 25 to 39 yards out.
“We rose up today,” Lewis said. “We talked about someone being the spark. I didn’t play well in the first quarter, but I challenged myself to be that spark and make plays.”