Mav Watch: No. 13 Azusa Pacific at Colorado Mesa
No. 13 Azusa Pacific (9-1) at Colorado Mesa (8-2)
1 p.m. today, Stocker Stadium
Radio: KTMM (101.1-FM, 1340-AM)
Video streaming: CMUMavericks.com
Last week: Colorado Mesa 48, S.D. Mines 38; Azusa Pacific 33, Western Oregon 8
Last meeting/series record: First meeting.
Keys to the game
Playoff atmosphere: Mesa is No. 7 in Super Region Four, and Azusa Pacific No. 6 in Super Region Three, so both teams are fighting for playoff spots. “Azusa Pacific is an outstanding football team. For us ending the year for the regular season, literally it also becomes a first-round playoff game for us the way it came down,” CMU coach Russ Martin said. “Several years ago when we scheduled this game, part of what we wanted to do was get extremely strong out-of-conference teams. The inter-regional competition counts very heavily in playoff situations, so we wanted to play some of the very best teams we could and they’re obviously very good. ... People will literally see a first-round playoff atmosphere this weekend.”
Tempo: Continuing to push the tempo is critical for the Mavericks, who are 3-0 and have scored 198 points since going to the “Mav tempo” offense. “Offensively we have to do what we do best, and that’s play at a great tempo so it gives our guys an advantage,” Martin said. “One of the other advantages is they’re coming up in elevation; they’re coming from sea level, basically. Our game plan is to put a little pressure on them and make them play a little faster than they’re used to.”
One play at a time: Azusa Pacific plays a 3-3 defense and likes to put pressure on the quarterback. “I think part of it is a standpoint of not beating ourselves. Watching some of their game tapes, they try to put a lot of pressure on you and create turnovers and some defensive scores,” Martin said. “Some teams have kind of panicked against them. Again, you have to realize you’re playing for 60 minutes and you don’t have to score every single possession, you don’t have to score every single play, every once in awhile it’s OK to punt the football … but not too much. And I think it’s understanding we’ve got to play the kind of football we play, and that’s one play at a time.”
Limit big plays: Azusa Pacific quarterback Andrew Elffers has thrown for 1,897 yards and 18 touchdowns and can stretch the field with his arm. Eight receivers average more than 13 yards per catch. “They do a lot of things that create big plays. That’s OK, you just rally around your teammates and play another down,” Martin said. “We’ve got to be able to make tackles in the open field because of what they do offensively. That’s going to be a big key. It’s going to be critical that we put some pressure on that quarterback because he’s really elusive. Probably the only guy you can compare him to is (Colorado Mines’ Justin) Dvorak. He’s an athletic young man and can throw the ball, and they’ve got some big, tall receivers who run well.”
Did you know? Running back David Tann can become the Mavericks’ first 1,000-yard rusher since Jake Cimolino (1,136 in 2013). Tann has 908 rushing yards and leads Division II in scoring (144 points) and total touchdowns (24). ... Mesa’s 87 points against New Mexico Highlands is the most of any NCAA team this season, regardless of division. East Texas Baptist (Division III) scored 85 points in one game this season, James Madison and Tennessee-Martin (FCS) each scored 84, and Missouri (FBS) scored 79 in the other divisions. ... Cesar Rivas-Sandoval, the head coach at Fort Lewis from 2010-2012, is the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator for Azusa Pacific. ... Both teams won their respective conference titles, with the Cougars going 8-0 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, the Mavericks 8-2 in the RMAC. ... Virnel Moon, the Mavericks’ fourth-leading receiver (369 yards, 5 TDs, 52.7 yards per game) is no longer on the roster. He had not played since the Dixie State game, when he had one catch for eight yards. He suited up against Adams State three weeks ago, but did not play. He was not in uniform last week, but was still listed on the roster. Peter Anderson has started the past three games in Moon’s place. Tanner Donahue, who handled kickoffs early in the season, is also off the roster. He made all four extra points he attempted this season. ... Senior Sean Rubalcaba is listed as the starting quarterback on this week’s depth chart. Eystin Salum replaced him after the first series last week, and despite being sandwiched on a hard tackle and staying on the ground for a few moments, played the rest of the game. The sophomore, listed as the backup this week, got into a golf cart after the game with an athletic trainer, saying he was headed to the hospital. CMU coaches are not allowed to comment on injuries.
Martin-izing: When asked how the Mavericks can counter Azusa Pacific’s staunch defense (12.5 points per game), Martin was succinct: “Score points.”
— Patti Arnold