Mavs get run over
Mesa can't stop Dixie State's run game in crushing loss
It was nothing fancy.
Dixie State, after falling behind 17-0 in the first quarter, simply lined up and battered Colorado Mesa up front, scoring 35 straight points to upset the No. 23 Mavericks 38-31 on Saturday night at Stocker Stadium and throwing the RMAC title up for grabs.
“They ran very hard, give them great credit, they got off the line of scrimmage, they were pounding the ball,” CMU coach Russ Martin said. “Their running back, we knew he was tough, we saw that on tape and he was competing very well. I think they competed harder than we competed.”
That might be what bothered Martin more than losing the game.
“I’m not going to pull any punches. We’ve got some young men on our football team that have to decide if they’re going to play for our football team or if they’re more worried about themselves,” he said. “If that’s the case they’re not going to be playing.”
After the Mavericks came out with their hair on fire, turning an interception, fumble recovery and blocked punt into 17 points in the first 12 minutes, the Trailblazers methodically went to work.
Their massive offensive line, which averages 290 pounds, opened holes for Clifford Simms and DeJon Coleman. Simms ran for 119 yards in the first half and Coleman 61 more, including a 4-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter to cap an 11-play, 92-yard drive.
“We were struggling controlling the line of scrimmage,” Martin said. “Early we got some stops on stuff, we had the pick and we had the blocked punt and we had the lead and the momentum and they came back and they just dominated the lie of scrimmage that next series coming back down.”
Mesa nearly caught a break on a punt when a Dixie player ran into Austin Pitchford, but after conferring, the officials ruled he was blocked into Pitchford, who still punted the ball into the end zone.
Dixie went on another long scoring drive, keeping the ball on the ground until quarterback Josh Thompson found Ernest Quiocho open in the flat for a 13-yard touchdown to cut Mesa’s lead to 17-14 after the Mavericks’ Ryan Sheehan missed a 46-yard field goal at the end of the half.
Any adjustments the Mavericks tried to make at halftime didn’t work — the ‘Blazers just kept ramming the ball off either side of center with great success.
“We just didn’t wrap up. Give credit to their running backs, they ran hard, each of them,” linebacker Marcus Cross said. “They hit it at 100 miles an hour and they didn’t slow down. You can’t just throw your body at someone like that, you really have to wrap up and play fundamental football.”
By the end of the third quarter, Simms, a redshirt freshman, had 207 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns. He didn’t play in the fourth quarter. Coleman ended up with 111 yards on the ground, as the Trailblazers out-rushed CMU 332-171.
“We’ve gotta establish the run,” Colorado Mesa running back David Tann said. “That hurts when we can’t run the ball. It shuts the passing game down and they don’t have to worry about the run as much. We have to fire off the ball and start attacking. We’re getting hit in the mouth and I think we lost the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.”
Thompson threw the ball only a dozen times, but after that first interception, threw short passes, completing 10 for 133 yards.
Those 35 straight points were simply too much for the Mavericks to overcome, even though they rallied late.
Tann, who only had 30 yards on the ground, scored three of CMU’s four touchdowns, catching a 19-yard pass in the flat from Eystin Salum, who played the majority of the second half after the Mavericks rotated quarterbacks early.
Martin said he went with Salum in the second half to give the Mavericks another option in the running game. He finished with 103 yards on 14 carries.
Dixie added a fourth-quarter field goal to push the lead to 38-24 with 10:26 to play.
Salum marched the Mavericks down the field, mixing his running with that of Tann’s, plus a 20-yard pass to Josh brown to get the ball to Dixie’s 12.
A false start moved them back to the 17, and on third and 14, Salum spied Virnel Moon in the end zone. Moon was tripped, and Salum’s pass was intercepted.
“That’s the one that I’m not going to be able to sleep because of that pick,” Salum said. “If we score there and get the ball back we’re able to tie possibly. I thought I had Virnel on the post and he got tripped up. It just wasn’t there; maybe I tried to force it because it was third and long and I thought we needed to get it all right there. That was a mistake on my part.”
Salum reached the end zone on a 4-yard run with 2:17 to play, but Dixie recovered the pooch kick and ran out the clock for its first victory over a nationally ranked team in 11 tries.
With Black Hills State also losing Saturday, the Mavericks could have reclaimed the RMAC lead. Instead, it’s anybody’s to win now — Mesa, Black Hills and Western State are all 5-2, with Colorado Mines, Dixie, South Dakota Mines and CSU-Pueblo 4-2.
“We still have a chance to tie for a conference championship,” Martin said, “but right now we’ve got to get things regrouped, get back on track and take care of things one play at a time.”