Mavs hope postseason berths will become business as usual

Scooping up a blocked kick, like Colorado Mesa University’s Brett Ojiyi, 24, does here against Dixie State in a game last month at Stocker Stadium, has become a regular occurrence for the Mavericks this year. Saturday, the Mavericks will be in an unfamiliar place when they go to Texas A&M Commerce for the first round of the Division II playoffs.

This business of being in the NCAA Division II football playoffs is new to this group of Colorado Mesa players.

Coach Russ Martin plans on that changing.

“A couple of guys were asking me after the game (Saturday), ‘Have you been in the playoffs?’ And I’ve been fortunate to be in some places where we’ve been in the playoffs,” the veteran CMU coach said. “What we want our guys to get used to is being in that situation. It’s going to be an exciting time and I know this week, preparation is going to be different for them.

“I think you will see great focus, great intensity from them, but we’ve had that. The last four weeks have been ... we’ve had our backs to the wall. After that loss to Dixie we knew that if we wanted to win a conference championship and we wanted to get to the playoffs, we had to win, and so it continues for one more week at least.”

The Mavericks, who moved back into the American Football Coaches Association top 25 on Monday, tied for No. 24 with Azusa Pacific, play at Texas A&M Commerce, ranked No. 8 in the nation and No. 4 in Super Region Four, one spot above CMU, at 1 p.m. (MST) on Saturday. The Lions (9-1) originally announced the game would be at noon (1 p.m. Central time) but on Monday morning, pushed kickoff back one hour.

No matter the time, Martin and the Mavericks are eager for CMU’s first playoff game since 2007.

Since they lost back-to-back games to Black Hills State and Dixie, putting their playoff chances in peril, the Mavericks have righted the ship.

“I’ll say it humbled us a little bit,” senior linebacker Marcus Cross said. “Some of us were so confident after winning those first five games, and beating Pueblo especially, we felt like we had already won the season. It was a hey, we’re not perfect. It was a humbling experience losing those two games.”

The Mavericks (9-2) have found ways to win all season, from putting up an NCAA-season-best 87 points against New Mexico Highlands, to a goal-line stand against CSU-Pueblo on the final play of the game to winning or securing games on blocked kicks three times.

Dustin Rivas blocked an extra point in CMU’s double-overtime win at Colorado Mines, and the past two weeks he’s blocked a field goal, both of which Antonio Clark scooped up and returned for touchdowns.

Martin laughed that he sure doesn’t want his physician to monitor his blood pressure late in games, but he’ll take a win any way the Mavs can figure out to get one.

Sunday’s mood was the complete opposite of last season, and Martin gave credit to the players he inherited who survived his first spring “hell week” and set the foundation for this year’s success.

“They are the ones that bought into the vision, the ones currently in the program, but still, credit to the guys who were first here and stayed,” he said. “Even though they were only here for a year or two years, they started to buy into what we wanted to do, that vision. In reality, they’re still part of this program right here, right now.

“What they did helped set the tone and expectations that has carried on. These guys are fortunate because they’ve been here all five years, and it’s a great reward for them and for all the hard work that they had done and sacrifices they’ve paid. They’re very excited about it and they should be.”

Tann returning: Running back David Tann, listed as a senior all season after transferring from the University of Iowa before the 2014 season, is actually only a junior after the NCAA granted Tann one more semester of eligibility. Tann will not participate in spring drills, saving his one remaining semester for next fall.

RMAC volleyball: Colorado Mesa travels to Regis to face the Rangers in the first round of the RMAC tournament at 7 tonight.

The Mavericks are 0-2 against Regis this season, losing in five sets in Denver early in the conference season, ending an eight-match winning streak, and were swept by the Rangers on Saturday night at Brownson Arena.

After the first loss to Regis, the Mavericks (18-8) rebounded to win seven straight matches, but are currently on a four-match losing streak, including two losses to RMAC regular-season champion Metro State in a five-day span.


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