Mavs outmanned in season finale
KEARNEY — Mesa State’s year-end downward spiral came to an end Saturday afternoon with a disappointing 63-10 loss to the University of Nebraska at Kearney on a cold, windy, Nebraska day.
“Hand it to Kearney. They whipped us in every phase of it and it’s very frustrating to end the season on that note,” Mesa State coach Joe Ramunno said.
The Lopers, who pulled away with four fourth-quarter touchdowns — including two pass interception returns by Jake Mandelko and a 70-yard dash by running back Riley Newcomer — rolled up 532 yards of total offense and held the Mavericks to 230.
More importantly, Mesa running back Bobby Coy will have to wait until next fall to gain the one yard he needs to become Mesa’s all-time leading rusher. Coy was held to 83 rushing yards on 21 carries, tying Michael Vaughn’s record.
The Mavericks have been eliminated from Dixie Rotary Bowl contention, an honor that goes to the top RMAC team not selected for the NCAA playoffs. That honor will probably go to Colorado Mines, which tied Kearney for second place behind Chadron State.
Kearney coach Darrell Morris openly begged for New Mexico Highlands to come back and beat Colorado Mines on Saturday afternoon to give the Lopers the Dixie Bowl berth, but that didn’t happen.
“I’d like to take this football team, the way they played today and go play somebody in Utah. ... I’m excited, they’re excited and I’m thrilled to death with our football team right now,” he said.
UNK lost its chance at the postseason, losing to Colorado Mines last week. It was a game that turned on four pass interceptions thrown by freshman quarterback Jake Spitzlberger.
Against the Mavericks, Spitzlberger completed 15 of 19 passes for 239 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for two scores.
Newcomer, who started the season fifth on the depth chart, reached the 200-yard mark for the second time this season when he broke off the 70-yard dash to score his third touchdown of the game.
He is only the second player in UNK history with more than one 200-yard game, and Morris will elevate Newcomer from a walk-on to a scholarship player.
“He could sue me if I didn’t,” Morris said.
Mesa’s best early scoring threat ended in a missed field goal that was partially blocked. Jared Keating made his next attempt, a season-long 52-yarder, but Spitzlberger scored on a 6-yard run to give UNK a 21-3 halftime lead.
“We got in situations early; we missed a field goal early and we have to make touchdowns. You can’t get in a field goal battle when they’re scoring,” Ramunno said.
When Kearney scored on its first three possessions of the second half, the outcome wasn’t in doubt.
“We pretty much got whipped in everything. It’s hard to make any excuses or comparisons because we were never in the game,” Ramunno said.
“We couldn’t stop the run and we were unable to execute points when we had opportunities. It’s been the same
thing the last three weeks. ... The last three weeks just crept up on us.”
Mesa finished its season with a 6-5 record with losses to Adams State, Chadron State and Kearney at the end of the season.
“It’s hard for my seniors and it’s hard for me to watch the seniors because you form such a bond with them,” Ramunno said. “It’s hard to go out on that note.”