Griffons get ahead early, hold on to top Mavericks
Before you knew it, the Mesa State College football team found itself in a deep hole.
By the time the Mavericks football team could start digging out of the hole, it was too late.
Missouri Western State scored two early touchdowns Saturday on the way to defeating the Mavericks 35-14 at Stocker Stadium.
“We got hit in the mouth pretty hard,” Mesa junior Griffin Chernoff said. “The second half, we decided to play. You can’t do that with good teams.”
Missouri Western State (2-0) moved the ball with little resistance from the get-go, accumulating 451 yards in total offense.
Quarterback Drew Newhart completed 21 of 27 passes for a career-high 373 yards and three touchdowns. Western receiver Cedric Houston caught six passes for a career-high 229 yards and three touchdowns.
“They had a different look,” Mesa State coach Joe Ramunno said. “We knew they had great talent. Their quarterback is flat good, a seasoned guy.”
The Mavericks’ offense started out slowly, but finished with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Robert Felberg threw two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown. He completed 8 of 15 passes for 84 yards.
Mesa State (0-2) was able to run the ball more effectively than last week, but never broke a big one. Will Halboth had 24 carries for 99 yards.
The Griffons produced a few big plays, beginning with a 30-yard kickoff return to open the game. Thomas Hodges capped the drive with a 1-yard run for a 7-0 lead.
Mesa pinned the Griffons back on their own 2, but that didn’t matter.
Newhart hit Houston down the sideline for a school-record 98-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
“I was supposed to run post, but the defender was keeping me from breaking inside to the post,” Houston said. “I kept running straight. I knew Drew would lead it. He put it out there and I ran underneath it. The O-line protected well. It was a great play.”
Mesa’s defense responded by keeping the Griffons out of the end zone on their next two possessions, but couldn’t prevent Missouri Western’s Ian Thompson from returning an interception 25 yards for a score and a 21-0 lead with 4:30 left in the first half.
Missouri Western intercepted Felberg again on Mesa’s first play on the next series. Shane Simpson’s return set up another Newhart touchdown pass to Houston for 23 yards and a 28-0 halftime lead.
Special teams gave Mesa a boost early in the second half when Chernoff returned a punt 57 yards for a touchdown with 6:53 left in the third quarter.
“That was just good blocking,” Chernoff said. “The last couple years I’ve been getting caught by the punter. That was not happening that time. I would’ve never heard the end of it.”
Missouri Western, though, wasn’t fazed, moving the ball into scoring territory, but the drive ended with a Chad Simpson interception in the end zone.
Mesa’s offense mounted a 10-play, 80-yard drive ending with 1-yard touchdown run by Halboth early in the fourth quarter.
Newhart hooked up with Houston a third time on a 45-yard score to secure the victory with 2:30 left in the game.
“We can look at it (as a setback) or we can look at it like this, these two games are preparation for league play,” Ramunno said. “Our bottom line is we’ve got to take care of league play.”