Finishing touch

Mavs win 3rd straight by closing out Mustangs

Colorado Mesa’s Austin Rodriguez makes one of his two touchdown receptions Saturday as Western New Mexico’s Brandon Perkins defends in the Mavs’ 22-17 victory over the Mustangs at Stocker Stadium.



Colorado Mesa’s Mitch Irwin, 91, chases down the loose ball Saturday after a fumble — one of six turnovers by Western New Mexico — during the second half of the Mavericks’ 22-17 victory at Stocker Stadium.



QUICKREAD

RMAC Roundup

No. 5 CSU-Pueblo 51, No. 19 Chadron State 42: The ThunderWolves scored four TDs that took three plays or less.

Colorado Mines 51, Fort Lewis 16: The Orediggers scored 30 unanswered points in the second half to pull away.

Western State 33, N.M. Highlands 27: Austin Ekeler ran for 133 yards and one touchdown.

Adams State 49, Black Hills St. 43: The Grizzlies won a wild homecoming game to end a two-game losing streak.



There is a different feel to the season this year, and it’s starting to show.

The Colorado Mesa University football team is closing out games instead of letting them slip away.

The Mavericks did it again Saturday, defeating Western New Mexico 22-17 in a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference football game at Stocker Stadium.

As a result, Colorado Mesa (4-2, 3-1 RMAC) has won three consecutive games for the first time since 2009, and the Mavericks won for the first time this season when trailing at halftime.

“We’re feeling momentum each and every game,” CMU senior Jake Edmiston said. “It’s exciting, but the season doesn’t end here. We’ve got another big game next week. We need to keep on this roll.”

The Mavericks, who made a defensive stand to win last week, ran out the clock to win this week.

Western New Mexico (1-5, 1-3 RMAC) scored with 3:06 left in regulation to get within five points, but Colorado Mesa didn’t let the Mustangs touch the ball again.

Jake Cimolino, who moved into third place on the school’s all-time rushing list, caught a pass for 10 yards and a first down. From there, the Mavs ran out the clock.

“The biggest thing is in every game this year you can see our guys have a whole different expectation,” CMU coach Russ Martin said. “Their expectation level is so much higher than what it’s been in the past. Last week, guys never panicked. We felt we could still win that football game.

“When you’re talking about today, it’s the same thing. We were struggling on offense in the first half, but the guys didn’t panic. They didn’t get in a rush. The defense kept playing lights out. Once we started going, you can feel the momentum build on the sideline.”

The Mavericks were limited to two first downs and 89 yards of offense in the first half against a Western New Mexico team allowing more than 35 points and 400 yards of offense per game. Mesa finished with 16 first downs and 346 yards of total offense.

What adjustments did Martin make at halftime?

“Really we made very few adjustments,” Martin said. “It was more in the execution. We went a little bit from running the zone plays to running more of the veer option. That did help. We got more yards inside. More than anything, we hit a couple throws the second half. The first half, we just missed. That made a ton of difference for us.

“We know offensively we are capable of being more explosive, and it started to show in the second half. That’s what our expectation is. Each one of these games, we’re growing.”

Edmiston said he wasn’t concerned.

“We know whenever the offense is struggling, we’re going to have their back,” he said. “When we’re struggling, they’re going to have our back as well. If they aren’t clicking, and something isn’t going right, we know we have to hold strong. If we do our job, eventually they’ll pick it up and bail us out.”

Redshirt freshman quarterback Aric Kaiser admitted he struggled to get in a rhythm in his first game back since he injured his left knee in the season opener.

He completed seven of 12 passes for 88 yards and three touchdowns in the second half after completing four of 12 passes for 52 yards and one interception in the first half.

“The first half was a little rough getting back into the swing of things,” Kaiser said. “It took longer than it should’ve, but the second half I was able to come back with a lot of confidence to do what I needed to.”

Kaiser led the Mavericks on a 74-yard drive to open the second half, resulting in a Tanner Donahue 24-yard field goal.

On Mesa’s next possession, Kaiser completed a 12-yard touchdown pass to slot receiver Ian Juede for a 9-7 lead.

Western New Mexico regained the lead with a 47-yard field goal, but the Mavs took over from there.

Kaiser threw touchdown passes to Austin Rodriguez on their next two possessions for a 22-10 lead.


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