MavWatch, Oct. 6, 2017
Black Hills State (3-2, 3-2 RMAC) at Colorado Mesa (4-1, 4-1 RMAC)
Today, 1 p.m., Stocker Stadium
Radio: KTMM (101.1-FM)
Video streaming: CMUMavericks.com
Last week: CSU-Pueblo 30, Colorado Mesa 24; Black Hills State 50, N.M. Highlands 40
Previous meeting: Black Hills State 48, Colorado Mesa 34, Spearfish, S.D.
Series: 6th meeting; Colorado Mesa leads 4-1, 2-0 at Stocker Stadium
Rankings: Colorado Mesa No. 21 AFCA
Stop the run, watch the pass: Phydell Paris is one of the top running backs in the RMAC, averaging 124.4 yards a game, second in the conference, and has rushed for more than 100 yards in four games this season. Quarterback Ryan Hommel threw for 327 yards last week, so if the Mavericks stuff the run like they did last week, the secondary has to be ready. Shandon Jones is a big-play receiver and is one of only seven RMAC receivers with at least two 100-yard games this season.
“They have a very good QB in Hommel; he’s very good in the (run-pass option) game,” CMU coach Russ Martin said, “and Phydell Paris is an outstanding running back.”
Next man up: The Mavericks have lost All-American free safety Dustin Rivas to a knee injury, likely for the season, and defensive back Antonio Clark to a shoulder injury. Clark should return soon, but the secondary must get back to its ball-hawking nature and not give up big plays. Freshman Nick Ciccio (Lutheran High School) will start at strong safety, with junior Darian Turner moving from strong to free safety. Steven Sumey is listed as the backup at both spots.
Garrett Reece-Scott will start at defensive back in place of Clark. Weak-side linebacker Carlos Aviles is listed as the starter after missing three games with a foot injury; he played some last week.
Bounce back: The dream of an undefeated season is over, but the Mavericks can’t afford to let one loss turn into two. The players want to send a message that they’re not going away.
“We have a chip on our shoulder,” tight end Tanner Quick said. “One mark in the loss column. Last year I think we got ahead of ourselves and were looking to the playoffs. We got through the gauntlet and came out without a blemish. This year we’re a lot better focused and we know what can happen. I feel like the chip on our shoulder will help us get through these next six games.”
No lead is safe against the Yellow Jackets, who seem to dominate the second half.
“They put up 50 points (last week) and they put up 30 in the second half,” Martin said. “They were trailing at halftime against Highlands and they won the second half 30-6. They’ve done that several times where they’ve come back in the second half and played tremendously well.”
In five games, Black Hills has outscored its opponents 92-33 after halftime. Conversely, they’ve lost the first half 127-59. Colorado Mesa has been a team of fast starts, outscoring opponents 45-6 in the first quarter and 99-26 in the first half.
Mesa’s been good coming out of halftime, with a 59-21 edge, but the fourth quarter has been an issue, with CMU being outscored 66-17.
Martin wants the Mavs to return to being aggressive on defense — they were giving CSU-Pueblo’s receivers too much cushion last week — and to continue to only worry about their job each play.
“We emphasize to our guys, do your 1/11th,” he said. “Stay true and stay focused on your keys. Don’t let all the other stuff distract you from what’s important that play.
“The big thing to remember is you don’t have to do everybody else’s job. Do your job, do your 1/11th, stay locked in on that, and if you do, we’re going to be in great shape.”
Did you know?
Both head coaches, Martin and Black Hills State’s John Reiners, played football and graduated from Chadron State. Martin’s first head coaching job was at Black Hills State (1996-1999). Reiners was an assistant at Chadron and coached two-time Harlon Hill winner Danny Woodhead (2006, 2007). ... Black Hills defensive coordinator Anthony Kerr graduated from CMU in 1997 and was a team captain his senior year. He was an assistant with the Mavericks for six years after graduating, coaching linebackers and special teams. ... The Mavericks score 82 percent of the time they reach the red zone (11 of 17 on touchdowns, 3 of 3 on field goals). ... Virnel Moon averages 32.2 yards per kickoff return, first in the conference and 11th in the nation. He returned one 97 yards for a touchdown last week. ... Today’s game is the Mavs’ annual “Pink” game, a benefit for the Swing for Life Foundation, run by Mesa graduate and breast cancer survivor Kathy Howa. The first 500 fans receive pink sunglasses.
— Patti Arnold