Mavs get ‘special’ victory
Special teams errors hurt the Mesa State College football team early in the season.
Thursday night, special teams sparked the Mavericks to their sixth straight victory in Mesa’s 29-19 RMAC victory over Western State.
“I think they did, if you look at all that happened,” Mesa State coach Joe Ramunno said. “Western came to play. They had a good scheme that caused us problems. They stung us a bit. That blocked punt propelled us. Special teams was huge.”
With the score tied 7-7 in the second quarter, Mesa State junior linebacker Derek Thorne blocked a
Western State punt and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown and the Mavericks’ first lead of the game, 14-7.
Special teams kept Mesa within striking distance when Western State regained the lead.
Western State came back to score a touchdown with five seconds left in the first half, but Mesa defensive end Nainoa Campbell blocked the point-after attempt. The Mountaineers opened the second-half with another touchdown drive, but Western missed another PAT.
Mesa State (6-2, 6-0 RMAC) put together two scoring drives to take a 29-19 lead, but needed another special teams play and a defensive stop to seal the victory.
Sophomore nose tackle Tony Kelly blocked a Western field goal attempt, then Campbell forced a fumble pressuring Western State quarterback Cameron Merrill.
“Tony has been lights out,” Ramunno said. “I’m proud of him. Cheech (Rodriguez) has done a great job.
We don’t rush a lot, so those guys get triple-teamed a lot.”
The Mavericks were happy to come away with another victory, but disappointed in their play.
“I felt we could play better,” Thorne said. “We came out flat, but we finished.”
It was the Mavs’ eighth consecutive RMAC victory and 15th in their past 16 RMAC games dating back to the 2006 season.
“That’s the thing,” Mesa State senior quarterback Phil Vigil said.
“We need to play at our level. We know we should’ve dominated from the start. They came out ready.”
The Mavericks may need a good start and finish next week when they visit Adams State (2-5, 2-3 RMAC) at noon next Saturday in Alamosa.
“Adams has an excellent defense,” Ramunno said.
“They present a lot of challenges for us. They had Chadron on the ropes. Any team that does that is a good team.”
Adams State is seventh in the nation and first in the RMAC in total defense (243.0 yards per game).
Mesa State ended a three-game losing skid to the Grizzlies last year.
“They’ve played us tough,” said Vigil of Adams State. “It seems like every time they’ve come back on us.
That’s the way it’s been the last four years. We’ve got to execute.”