Seven picks help Mesa defense shut down Yellow Jackets
Colorado Mesa University went into Saturday’s RMAC football game against Black Hills State expecting the Yellow Jackets to pass.
“It’s a quick passing game,” defensive coordinator Todd Auer said of Black Hills State’s offense. “We knew what we were going to get.”
What Auer and coach Russ Martin didn’t know was just how well the defense was going to respond. The Yellow Jackets threw 54 times for 312 yards, but the Mavericks came up with seven interceptions — an RMAC record — in a 49-11 victory at Stocker Stadium.
Jake Edmiston had two interceptions to go along with his team-high 13 tackles, pushing his season total to 51 tackles and season average to 13.25 tackles per game.
“I’ve said it before: I think Jake Edmiston is the best linebacker in Division II football in the country,” Martin said. “He is a smart young man. He is an intense player. And I mean he’s the guy who helps get everyone else lined up and yet at the same time he’s able to get lined up and focus on what he’s supposed to do.”
Michael Brady, Travis McRae, Ryan Lendrum, Cody Daniels and Isaac Koch also had interceptions for the Mavericks.
Mesa racked up 12 tackles for loss and limited Black Hills State to 53 yards on the ground.
Martin said the Mavericks’ ability to keep Black Hills out of the end zone and limiting red-zone yardage was key in the win, as well as the development of the defense.
“Black Hills really has a similar-type offense to what we run, so we wanted to get as much offense against defense as we could in practice,” Martin said. “I think seeing that through the week really helped us know what to expect during this game.”
Five of the Colorado Mesa interceptions were turned into touchdowns by the offense on ensuing drives. Edmiston said the defense’s performance against Black Hills State was a statement to the conference.
“Today we really played how we want to play and how we want to be known as a Maverick defense,” Edmiston said. “We want to be known as one of the best defenses not only in the RMAC, but in the nation. Coach Auer as well as our other defensive coaches bring an intensity. The more you’re around (Auer), I mean he wears on you. His intensity is always there, and guys start to reflect that. They’re starting to learn, and they’re starting to finish.”
Unable to finish the game was starting quarterback Kyle Duran, who injured his right knee in the second quarter. Duran was hit after an incomplete pass, stayed down for a couple of minutes, but jogged off the field. Duran was standing, signaling in plays, but Martin said the injury limited Duran’s mobility, and his status for next week’s game against New Mexico Highlands is uncertain.
Duran finished with five completions on 11 passes for 57 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. He also ran for 65 yards on 10 carries.
Jason Haferman came on in relief of Duran and ran the offense well — completing 13 of 22 passes with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
He showed off his arm on a 37-yard touchdown pass on a post route to Steven Lindquist.
Haferman said he prepares like he is starting every week.
“I really prepared this week like any other week,” Haferman said. “You never know when your number is going to be called, and you have to prepare every week like you’re the starter.
“My number has been called a couple times this year already, but here there was a few jitters obviously, heading into the game. The first couple drives I made some mistakes that aren’t really characteristic of me. I turned it around when I came back, was comfortable, and trusted the game plan.”
Martin said the offense got into a rhythm as Haferman got more snaps. After punting on six straight drives late in the second quarter and early in the third quarter, the Mavericks rattled off five straight touchdowns to bury the Yellow Jackets.
“We were just missing throws,” Martin said. “When we started hitting those throws in the second half, it started loosening everyone up a little bit and really helped us expand everything, and all of a sudden we become just that much more effective.”
Jake Cimolino and Jerreon Dennis added rushing touchdowns for the Mavericks. Center Brett Boyer scored a touchdown when he recovered a Duran fumble that skipped into the end zone.
The Mavericks had another setback in their skill positions when running back Ricky Trinidad had to be helped off the field after injuring his right leg on a carry early in the third quarter. He received treatment on the sideline but didn’t return to the game. Trinidad is the Mavericks’ second-leading rusher with 187 yards on 38 carries. His status for next week’s game against New Mexico Highlands is uncertain.