Mavs falter in final moments to Mines

There was no rally this time.

The Mesa State College football team had a chance with 1:19 left Saturday night down by six, but couldn’t score, falling 23-17 to Colorado School of Mines at Stocker Stadium.

Mines (4-2, 4-0 RMAC) ended a four-year losing streak and won its first game at Stocker Stadium under coach Bob Stitt.

“It is a really good feeling,” Stitt said of the win. “Offensively, we are really beat up. We lost two more starters last week. We’ve had five of the six O-linemen and tight end out. We lost our top receiver, Cody Renken, last week and Brian Lincoln. We were piecing it together. Basically, it’s our backups up front and we found a way to do it against a very good defense.”

It was only the second loss to Mines in Mesa State coach Joe Ramunno’s 12 seasons.

“Give them credit; they did a great job,” Ramunno said. “They had a great plan against us. They did some things that caused us some problems. We adjusted to them, we just didn’t have enough gas in the tank to get it done.”

The Orediggers’ defense didn’t let Mesa (3-3, 3-1 RMAC) mount many long drives, as the Mavericks were only 1 of 13 on third-down conversions and it didn’t matter who was playing quarterback.

Michael Mankoff was 9 of 18 for 80 yards and two touchdowns and one interception. He put Mesa on the board with an 18-yard strike to Justin Murray in the third quarter and hit Murray again for a 7-yard score late in the fourth quarter to keep the Mavericks in the game. Robert Felberg completed 3 of 8 passes for 32 yards.

“They have a good scheme,” Ramunno said. “They move around a lot and try to create a lot of confusion. Those are things we have to learn from.”

It didn’t help that the Mavericks lost starting tailback Joey Applehans in the first quarter to a broken ankle, Ramunno said.

“That’s a big loss,” Ramunno said. “We got hurt tonight and it changed us a little bit.”

Mesa center Ryan Swope was injured early in the third quarter and watched the rest of the game on crutches.

Mesa’s defense, though, didn’t let the game get away from the Mavericks.

“Defensively, we played very well at times, we just let big plays get by us,” Ramunno said. “That’s something you can’t do against a good team like that.”

Mines quarterback David Pesek completed 20 of 36 passes for 325 yards, including a 41-yard pass for a touchdown to Logan Rowe and a 32-yard toss to Dominic Bravo for a score in the second half.

“They are a good football team,” Ramunno said. “The running back (Jahre Cheeseman) is a big help. We had him corralled pretty good, except on that screen in the first half. It balances them out quite a bit.”

Virginia Tech transfer Jahre Cheeseman broke loose for a 34-yard pass play to set up his 4-yard touchdown run with 24 seconds left in the second quarter. Mines led 10-0 at halftime.

Mesa defensive tackle Nainoa Campbell nearly got to Pesek before he dumped the ball off to Cheeseman on the screen.

Mines took advantage of a turnover to go up 17-0 early in the third quarter on Pesek’s 41-yard pass to Rowe.

“It’s hard coming back when you’re down already,” Mesa senior fullback Zach Belloni said. “We’ve got to start coming out and scoring on the first drive and putting up points early rather than waiting until the second half.”

Mesa’s Zay Lopez recovered a Mines fumble on a punt return attempt, setting up Michael Mankoff’s first touchdown pass of his college career, a 17-yard strike to Justin Murray with 2:26 left in the third.

“Special teams put them in a little bit of a predicament,” Stitt said. “We had the game under control and the drop punt hurt, but the defense was sharp.”

Mesa’s Aaron Silverthorn intercepted Pesek and returned it 33 yards into Mines territory. The Mavericks, though, settled for a Michael Sweeney 31-yard field goal. Mines led 17-10.

Mines responded with a 8-play, 63-yard touchdown drive, converting two third-down plays, including a third-and-long to take a 23-10 lead with 7:19 left. Pesek hit Dominic Bravo for a 32-yard score. The PAT failed.

Mesa got the score back with a Mankoff 7-yard touchdown pass to Murray with 2:38 left, but the Mavs trailed 23-17.

Mesa attempted an on-side kick, but Mines recovered. The Mavs forced a punt with 1:38 left.

With one timeout left, Mesa moved the ball to the 50, but had a false start penalty and Mankoff couldn’t complete a pass, turning the ball over to Mines with 56 seconds left.


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