Injury to Romero keeps Mesa QB carousel turning

A hard hit in the second quarter Saturday knocked Steve Romero out of the game in his first Mesa start.

Just when the Colorado Mesa University football coaches thought they had found their quarterback, he was trudging to the locker room with the team physician.

Only four days after he was cleared to play after transferring from Dixie State College this fall, Steve Romero trotted onto the field for the first snap of his career Saturday at Stocker Stadium.

“They told me on Tuesday, at 2 o’clock we got the call that I’d been officially released and was eligible,” Romero said after the Mavericks lost 52-10 to No. 11 Nebraska-Kearney. “I ran the scout team (the past two weeks) and just tried to work as hard as I could, wait for my time so I’d be ready.”

The redshirt freshman from Salt Lake City had the offense moving the first half. He was calm in the pocket, hit short passes and picked his time to run.

Romero didn’t play football two years ago at Dixie because of a knee injury. He redshirted last season, but transferred after he didn’t think he’d get the opportunity to play for the Red Storm.

He admitted to some jitters before the game.

“I felt kind of anxious but after the first snap it felt like I was playing just yesterday,” he said.

That feeling didn’t last long.

“It happened on a fluke fall down here,” Romero said, pointing toward the north end zone. “I just tripped over a lineman and fell on it weird, right before the field goal, but it wasn’t that bad.”

He jammed his right shoulder, but didn’t think anything about it. After Kearney took a 14-3 lead in the second quarter, Romero had the Mavericks driving again when he scrambled to the sideline.

He was hit out of bounds by Trey Wilberger, who was flagged for a personal foul, but it was much worse than a 15-yard penalty for the Mavericks.

Romero ran for six yards on the next play, then came off the field. Michael Mankoff went in at quarterback and threw a pretty 36-yard touchdown pass to Jay Knaus, cutting the lead to 14-10.

“Standing on the sideline gives you the opportunity to see the field from a different angle,” Mankoff said. “We had scouted them all week and we knew we were going to be able to get that (pass across the middle). I knew I had a mismatch and I took advantage of it.”

That’s when Romero and team doctor Mitch Copeland left for the locker room. When they came back, Romero’s right shoulder was packed in ice.

“We hit the ground and I was fine, but we rolled and his momentum rolled me right onto it and just crunched it,” Romero said.

The early diagnosis, he said, was a strain of the AC joint in his right shoulder. He’ll be re-evaluated Monday but is likely out for a few weeks.

“They don’t think it’s torn, but it’s a pretty severe pull or strain,” Romero said. “I want to try to be back in three to five weeks if it’s not torn, but we’ll take it day by day and figure it out Monday.”

Romero completed seven of 18 passes for 78 yards and one interception.

Mankoff, a junior who started all but one game last season, played the final nine minutes of the first half and most of the second half. After the touchdown drive, which pulled Mesa within 14-10, the offense couldn’t sustain a drive longer than 25 yards.

Mankoff completed nine of 22 passes for 121 yards, one touchdown and was intercepted twice.

Mesa ran 53 plays for 214 yards of offense in the first half but managed only 31 plays for 51 yards the entire second half.

Head coach Joe Ramunno said the coaches will re-evaluate the ever-revolving quarterback position over the weekend.

“He’s a talented kid,” Ramunno said of Romero. “I just don’t know how long he’ll be out. We’ll have to see where we’re at.”


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