Downward spiral tough for Mesa State football team

What started out as a season of hope and high expectations ended in disappointment with a humiliating 63-10 loss Saturday to Nebraska-Kearney.

A slow start by both teams turned into a track meet - at least for the Lopers. Redshirt freshman running back Riley Newcomer ran for 200 yards and three touchdowns.

Kearney’s other starting redshirt freshman, quarterback Jake Spitzlberger completed
15 of 19 passes for 239 yards and a touchdown.

The Lopers defense turned the victory into a blowout by returning two interceptions for touchdowns.

It was Mesa’s worst margin of defeat since a 65-7 loss Sept. 4, 2004 by North Dakota.

“It’s tough as heck to swallow,” Mesa State coach Joe Ramunno said. “We didn’t do the things we needed to compete (Saturday).

“It was a combination of things. I think we were pressing too much. We played decent against Chadron, but it was a combination of coaching and playing. Emotion plays a big part of it, but we have 11 games on the schedule. You’ve got to play them. We felt we had a good football team. We didn’t finish.”

It was the third consecutive loss for Mesa State (6-5, 6-3 RMAC) after reeling off six consecutive wins, but even the victories didn’t come easy.

The Mavericks had to rally in the second half to defeat New Mexico Highlands, the Colorado School of Mines and Western State.

In the other three wins, Mesa scored late to put away Western New Mexico, Fort Lewis and CSU-Pueblo.

“Obviously, it’s disappointing where we ended up,” Ramunno said. “We had a good run for a while, winning close games, but we never dominated anybody.”

Mesa’s offense did improve in its second season with a version of the West Coast offense, averaging 57 more yards in total offense than the 2007 playoff season. Harlon Hill candidate Bobby Coy led the way with a Mesa State single season record 1,600 yards. The junior from Littleton tied the Mesa career rushing mark of 4,161 yards also.

However, the Mavs turned the ball over seven more times this season, with four of those turnovers returned for scores.

The defense struggled, and forced 22 fewer turnovers than in 2007 as well.

Mesa’s special teams gave up three kickoff returns and one blocked punt for touchdowns.

Despite the Mavs’ tumble in the final three games and the loss of 12 seniors, including eight starters, Ramunno believes the Mavericks can take get better next season.

“We’re going to build off this,” Ramunno said. “I think the young guys learned some great things from the seniors.”

Two of the seniors may get a chance to play professionally – tight end Maurice Manley (Grand Junction) and kicker Jared Keating (Cody, Wyo.).


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