Mav Watch: Colorado Mesa at Black Hills State

No. 13 Colorado Mesa (5-0, 5-0 RMAC) at Black Hills State (4-1, 4-1)

Noon today, Lyle Hare Stadium, Spearfish, S.D.

Radio: KTMM (101.1-FM, 1340-AM)

Video streaming:

Last week: Colorado Mesa 20, CSU-Pueblo 19; Black Hills State 36, N.M. Highlands 10

Last meeting/series record: The Mavericks beat Black Hills 48-7 last season at Stocker Stadium, scoring 48 straight points. CMU leads the series 4-0.

Keys to the game

Own the (red) zone: Mesa has scored on 23 of 25 trips inside the red zone this season, the best in the RMAC. Black Hills State’ defense has allowed teams to score on only 17 of 27 trips inside the 20, the best defensive percentage in the conference (63 percent). The Yellow Jackets make teams beat them. “They’re going to run a lot of 3-4, a lot of what Pueblo runs. They’ll adjust their front at times and adjust their coverage behind it,” CMU coach Russ Martin said. “They’re trying to give their playmakers a chance to make plays. They’re very similar to us a year ago. Number one, we didn’t beat ourselves; they’re making teams beat them, so we’re going to have to go on the road and compete very, very well.”

Stop the run: Phydell Paris rushed for a school-record 244 yards and two TDs last week against New Mexico Highlands. Facing Bernard McDondle last week was a good test for the CMU defense.

“They are a run-heavy team, so coming off Pueblo I think it’s good to have that back-to-back,” DE Blake Nelson said. “McDondle gave us a good look and probably got too many yards from what we wanted him to have, but I think we contained him pretty well. Going into Black Hills we need to keep that going and our front seven needs to be solid again this week.”

Stay grounded: Mesa can’t afford another flat start after an emotional victory.

“The goal we had coming in was trying to be 5-0, and we’ve done that, but we can’t get complacent,” Nelson said. “Black Hills is second right now and the last thing we should do is get complacent and think we’ve done something great. We have done something great, but we need to continue off that, focus each week and take each opponent seriously, because we’re going to have a target on our back now and we’re going to have to rise to the occasion.”

Be road warriors: The trip to Spearfish, South Dakota, is the longest one of the regular season for the Mavericks, 641 miles one-way. Included in the trip was a Friday morning stop at Mount Rushmore.

“I just put my headphones on for 7 hours and doze off. You wake up and you’re there,” kicker Ryan Sheehan said.

Did you know? Mesa quarterback Sean Rubalcaba threw for 343 yards and three touchdowns against the Yellow Jackets last season, and six different players scored touchdowns, three running backs and three receivers. … Since Black Hills joined the RMAC in 2012, the Mavericks have scored an average of 44 points against the Jackets, giving up an average of 19.5. … CMU has committed only three turnovers this season, tied with five other teams for the fewest in Division II. … Black Hills does like to run, but the Yellow Jackets will take what you give them. “They have run-pass options. What you’re seeing more teams this year trying to do is take the pass away from them and they’re more than happy to run the football. If you’re going to bring guys up and load the box, they’re going to be more than happy to throw the football,” Martin said. “I don’t think it really matters to them.” … For the second straight week, strong safety Dustin Rivas is not listed on the Mavericks’ depth chart. He played last weekend despite separating a shoulder against Fort Lewis, but injured his left leg on the final series of the game. If he does play, it’s doubtful he will return punts. … Rubalcaba leads the RMAC in yards per completion (14.4). He’s in the top five in eight other offensive categories. … After taking the lead early in their first three games, the Mavericks have had to come from behind the past two weeks.

Martin-izing: When told his defensive coordinator (and son) Ben Martin mentioned to a reporter that their games could stand to be a little prettier, Russ Martin just laughed. “I think they’ve been pretty dang beautiful.”

— Patti Arnold


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