Mavs, despite lopsided win, looking to improve
Dynamic: of or relating to physical force or energy; marked by usually continuous and productive activity or change, a dynamic city.
It’s a word that rolls off Russ Martin’s tongue with regularity these days. Quarterback Eystin Salum? Dynamic. Colorado Mesa’s offense? Dynamic. Special teams? Dynamic.
After Thursday night’s season-opening 49-23 victory over Western State, Martin was alternately elated and disappointed about his team’s dynamics. The Mavericks scored 21 points in the first quarter, then the offense seemed to take a collective deep breath until halftime.
“The second quarter we had a couple of series we turned it over and went a little bit dead, and we can’t be that way,” Martin said. “We have a chance to be dynamic and move the chains and score consistently moving the chains.”
Mesa moved the chains — big chunks at a time — and showed just how dynamic this offense can be. The drive chart is a snapshot of the explosive nature of CMU’s read-option offense: The seven touchdown drives took a combined 30 plays (Mesa ran 68 offensive plays), and covered 442 of Mesa’s 499 offensive yards.
No drive took more than seven plays, and with the defense shutting down Western’s attack in the first half, allowing only 87 yards of offense, the Mavs had great field position. Mesa’s longest scoring drive in the first half was 76 yards, and another in the third was 78.
Running back David Tann was only half-joking earlier in the week when he said the offense wanted to score touchdowns and not give kicker Ryan Sheehan so many field-goal opportunities this season. The Mavs’ All-America kicker booted 23 last season, but all he had to do Thursday was kick extra points and then kick off to Western.
Salum, who completed 14 of 20 passes for 290 yards and five touchdowns (to five different players) in less than three quarters, was quick to acknowledge the Mavs need to play even better, starting this week when they travel to Chadron State.
“There are things we can clean up; three touchdowns on returns called back,” he said. “We went into a lull in the second quarter after we went up 21-0. That’s probably some mental focus. We got a penalty on the first play, there are some things we can clean up. We want to be that great.”
After halftime, the Mavericks were back on the offensive, building the lead to 49-3 before getting lots of reserves some valuable playing time. Unlike last season, it was bumpy, and that’s what really disappointed Martin.
“Our backups are better than what they showed,” he said. “I think they came out tonight not ready to play in a game. You know last year how important it was for us when we had injuries, we had backups step up and played lights-out. Tonight, our guys didn’t. There’s a lot of things we can work on and fix.”
Western outscored CMU 20-0 in the fourth quarter, and even though the Mavericks won handily, Martin talked earlier in the week about the need to finish games strong. Western State’s offense gained 273 second-half yards.
“We didn’t want to give up any touchdowns and they ended up putting 23 points up, but it’s stuff we can work on,” safety Dustin Rivas said. “It was good to get some young guys reps, but I think our defense has come together. When we get 11 guys really focused on their assignments and also making big plays, it can go a long way.”
Rivas, who got much of the second half off, got his first interception of the season to stop one drive, with three defenders in the area around one receiver.
“There was someone behind it, someone in front and I think I was the lucky guy in the middle and that’s where the ball landed,” Rivas said. “It was nice to get one in the first game.”
On the play, though, the Mavs might have lost safety Blake Brockett for some time with what looked to be a serious elbow injury. CMU is not allowed to comment on injuries, but Brockett was clearly in pain on the field and as team medical personnel tended to him on the sideline. His left arm was placed in a sling.
The three touchdowns called back for either holding or illegal blocks will be another point of emphasis in practice this week, something Martin called being selfish.
“In that situation, we’ve shared with our guys before, that’s selfishness. Yes, you got a good hit, you got a big hit, but it’s going to bring everything back,” he said. “We will learn from it, we will grow from it but we showed signs of what we can be. This team can be truly, truly dynamic.”
“We’ve got some great athletes,” said Rivas, the RMAC’s preseason special teams player of the year. “Virnel (Moon) showed that, Josh (Brown) showed that. We’ve got a lot of guys who can flat-out run and flat-out play. When you get the ball in their hands, you never know what’s going to happen.”