Mavs move on from loss to CSU-Pueblo, turn focus to Black Hills State

Dustin Rivas, 20, will most likely miss the rest of the season for Colorado Mesa after injuring his knee last week against CSU-Pueblo.

Chicken Little was not running around football practice squawking about the sky falling.

There were no dark clouds over Bergman Field — well, Monday was a gray, rainy day, but by Tuesday, the sky was blue and the sun was shining.

All is not lost for the Colorado Mesa football team.

“Sometimes when you have high expectations it becomes a situation when you play another really good team and you lose, everybody seems to think everything’s lost,” CMU coach Russ Martin said. “It’s not.

“It’s a standpoint of that we have an outstanding football team and we played an outstanding football team. We took it right down to the wire and we felt we had a chance. We got the ball late when they were up six and give (CSU-Pueblo) credit, they stopped us in a critical situation.”

The only thing that’s lost for the Mavericks, who fell from No. 8 to No. 21 in the American Football Coaches Association rankings this week, is the hope of an undefeated regular season. Everything else is still in play, and the Mavericks have turned the page.

“When I was in high school we had the 24-hour rule. You have 24 hours to celebrate a win or 24 hours to, I guess, mourn a loss or feel sorry,” tight end Tanner Quick said Tuesday. “I brought that with me here. I dealt with it the rest of Saturday and Sunday and came back in Monday ready to work and get better and improve.”

Free safety Darian Turner said the defensive backs met as usual on Monday morning, went over the good and bad of Saturday’s game. Monday afternoon, the focus was on one thing: Black Hills State.

“We take all the criticism that we had, all the mistakes we made and things like that,” he said. “Once the meeting is over, it’s on to the next week. It’s Black Hills this week.”

Turner will make an additional adjustment this week, moving to strong safety, replacing All-American Dustin Rivas, who is likely out for the season. Rivas had a hip-to-ankle splint on his left leg and was walking on crutches Tuesday at practice.

He hadn’t had an MRI yet, but said doctors suspect he tore the anterior cruciate ligament and possibly has additional damage to the knee, which means surgery and the end of his stellar career. He’s tied for the CMU record with 17 career interceptions.

Turner said his role will change a little bit, but it’s still a matter of just doing his job.

“One thing I have to do is stay focused and stay true to reading my keys,” said Turner, who had 10 tackles, forced a fumble and broke up one pass last week.

“I’ll be at strong safety instead of free safety, I have to make that adjustment, but just be a leader for the other guys and give them confidence, let them know they’re playing for a reason and we believe in them. Just have each other’s back and stay true to who we are.”

Freshman Nick Ciccio will move to free safety and Josh Brown will return punts in Rivas’ absence. Cornerback Antonio Clark sprained the AC joint in his right shoulder but said Tuesday he hopes to be cleared for this weekend. Garrett Reece-Scott is listed as the starter opposite George Manning.

Carlos Aviles, who missed three games with a foot injury, made two tackles last week and is back as a starting outside linebacker.

Needing only to look at last season, when they won their first five games, but then stumbled in back-to-back weeks against Black Hills State and Dixie State, has the Mavericks realizing anything can happen.

“The RMAC is really tough. Each week the game is going to be up in the air,” Turner said. “It’s very competitive, so going from here on out, we have to be focused and have that goal to make it to the national playoffs. Just win out and dominate every team we play from here on out.”

The Mavericks (4-1, 4-1 RMAC) have five more conference games, two at home and three on the road, then a trip to Azusa Pacific (California) to wrap up the season. CSU-Pueblo (4-1, 4-0 RMAC) has six conference games left, three at home and three on the road.

“Our concern is winning out so we can get in the playoffs,” Quick said. “Our ultimate goal at the beginning of the season was not to win the RMAC championship, but to be a national champion.

“(The RMAC title) was a step in the road. We have to have some help from other teams now to do that, but overall, we can still achieve that ultimate goal.”

Martin noted how quiet the bus ride home was Saturday night, and said that was a good sign.

“To a man, coming back on that bus, it was quiet. It hurt,” Martin said. “You want it to be a situation that it hurts. Not that we lost and it hurts. No, it’s just that important to them. This team is important to them and where we’re going.

“It’s not the end of the road. Like Tanner said, it’s a bump in the road. We’re going to continue to move forward and get better.”


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