Mavs’ defense bends, doesn’t break vs. Mines
All week, the Colorado Mesa coaching staff preached about stopping the run against Colorado School of Mines.
Stop the run. Stop the run. Stop the run.
But when stopping the run means stopping Cameron Mayberry, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound battering ram, it’s easier said than done.
“He’s a good player, for sure,” Colorado Mesa linebacker Tom Saager said after the No. 11 Mavericks eked out a 38-36 victory at Stocker Stadium. “He got a couple of pops in the hole where it felt good, but he just kept coming.
“We had a lot of what we call deuce fit, where I have to cover two gaps. He was kind of hiding behind their line and he’d sneak out in one of the gaps.”
Mayberry pounded away at the Mavericks 39 times for 151 yards. Colorado Mesa tried to gang-tackle him, tried to get to him in the backfield, tried to grab him around the ankles, the waist, the shoulder pads. One time, Taylor Barton had two handfuls of jersey, planted his feet and was trying to pull him back as help arrived.
“He’s a good player,” Barton said. “We got the job done, even though it wasn’t pretty.”
The way Mayberry kept churning to get yardage after first contact allowed the Orediggers to set up the passing game. Quarterback Ben Bottlinger hit several big plays, especially on the Orediggers’ final drive. Down 35-30 and backed up on their own 9 after Riley Hoff muffed a punt, the Orediggers converted not one, but two fourth-down plays to set up their go-ahead touchdown.
On fourth and 17 from his own 17, Bottlinger found Hoff for 27 yards to the Mines 44.
Three incomplete passes, with Blake Nelson in Bottlinger’s face on third down, set up yet another last-ditch play. Again, the defensive line got pressure on Bottlinger, who was scrambling like crazy and his receivers were running everywhere, trying to get open. Sean O’Dell did.
He got behind Darian Turner and gathered in a 45-yard prayer at the 11 with only 39 seconds left.
“Give them credit, that quarterback stood in there and threw it and they had guys go get the ball,” CMU coach Russ Martin said. “That fourth down and 17, 18, (Hoff) goes up and gets that thing, that’s a great play by them. Then we had pressure on the quarterback and he’s scrambling for his life and throws one down the field (to O’Dell).”
After an incomplete pass to Brody Oliver, Mayberry picked up seven yards to the Colorado Mesa 4 with 26 seconds left.
“He ran hard,” Martin said. “Going into the game, we felt honestly we had to stop the run game. When they were able to run the ball and then go to their mixes, their run-pass, they’re extremely hard to defend. We missed a few tackles, but give him credit, he ran through some tackles.”
It wasn’t hard to figure out who the Orediggers would go to — Oliver got open in the left side of the end zone to put the Orediggers up 36-35. They went for two, but Bottlinger’s pass to O’Dell was incomplete, opening the door for the Mavericks’ last-second heroics.
Nelson had a dozen tackles, Saager and Mason Newton nine each, along with cornerback Antonio Clark. Barton had seven more for the defense, which has been on the field for 190 plays the past two games.
“We had plenty of opportunities to get off the field,” Saager said. “We all have the mindset to win. We know we’re going to win at the end of the day, we just have to stay together and not turn on each other, keep picking each other up and play the next play.”
“Sometimes things don’t go to plan, you just have to buck up and get ready for the next one and go harder,” Barton said.
“We have a mentality of bend, don’t break, so we just go as hard as we can as long as we can. We’re a bunch of tough guys, I will say that. We’ll get the job done.”