MavWatch, Sept. 29, 2017

Colorado Mesa (4-0, 4-0 RMAC)
at CSU-Pueblo (3-2, 3-0 RMAC)

Today, 2 p.m., Neta and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl, Pueblo

Radio: KTMM (101.1-FM)

Video: CMUMavericks.com; ESPN3

Last week: Colorado Mesa 40, Fort Lewis 14; CSU-Pueblo 56, N.M. Highlands 13

Previous meeting: Colorado Mesa 20, CSU-Pueblo 19, Stocker Stadium

Series: 40th meeting; Colorado Mesa leads 18-16-5

Rankings: Colorado Mesa No. 8 AFCA, No. 15 D2football.com; CSU-Pueblo No. 17 AFCA, No. 10 D2football.com

Three keys

Offensive efficiency: Playing keep-away from CMU’s offense didn’t work for Fort Lewis, which had the ball for 40 minutes, 24 seconds but didn’t score until the fourth quarter, after the Mavs went to the bench.

When it comes to time of possession, the Mavericks haven’t won that battle all season, averaging just less than 24 minutes a game, but they’re outscoring their opponents 37.8-20.8.

Mesa’s 11 offensive touchdown drives have taken an average of 1 minute, 44 seconds, ranging from 8 seconds to 3:55.

Defensive stops: If the Mavericks can replicate the drive chart from last week, they’ll be in good shape. The second-quarter chart read: CMU field goal, FLC punt, CMU touchdown, FLC fumble, CMU touchdown, end of half. The third quarter: FLC punt, CMU touchdown, FLC punt, CMU touchdown, FLC punt, CMU touchdown, FLC punt.

“The defense got a stop and we scored right before the half,” CMU coach Russ Martin said. “We came out in the second half and they answered our challenge, got a three-and-out and we go score. We had another quick (defensive) series and go down and score. That 19-0 lead goes to 40-0.”

Keep your cool: CSU-Pueblo is attempting to attract 10,000 fans in the 6,500-seat ThunderBowl, which would be its largest crowd since reinstating the program in 2008. Although the Mavericks usually have a good road following and the school is sponsoring a student bus to the game, it won’t be a Mesa-friendly crowd. The Mavericks can’t let their emotions get the better of them — they were flagged only three times for 25 yards last week, a season low after averaging more than 100 yards a game in penalties.

Senior cornerback Antonio Clark said the Mavs can use the crowd’s energy as much as the ThunderWolves.

“It’s always fun hearing the crowd getting on you,” he said, “but then making a play and silencing them.”

Scouting report

Martin has made no secret that CSU-Pueblo’s success is where he wants to take CMU’s program, being at the top of the conference every year and winning national championships. Pueblo won the 2014 national title and has had only one losing season since reinstating the program in 2008.

Despite losing Bernard McDondle to injury in the season opener, the T-Wolves continue to pound the ball on the ground, averaging 239 yards a game. Marché Dennard had only seven carries last week against Highlands, but ran for 159 yards, nearly 23 yards a carry.

Rex Dausin is back at quarterback after starting the season No. 3 on the depth chart. Injuries have sidelined AJ Thompson and Brandon Edwards and caused CSU-Pueblo coach John Wristen to pull freshman Gunnar Lamphere’s redshirt status.

CSU-Pueblo has been perfect in the red zone, with 13 touchdowns and three field goals. The Mavericks are 13 for 15, scoring 10 TDs and kicking three field goals.

The Mavs’ focus has been good all season and Martin knows that won’t change today.

“Each week is a little bit different,” he said. “I believe our guys are very focused on taking care of the task at hand. We know there’s a big picture we want to accomplish, but it’s acting in the small, refined picture of playing in the moment that our guys have done a very good job of.”

Did you know?

Today’s game will be streamed on ESPN3, part of the Division II football showcase. ... The two rivals, along with Colorado Mines, tied for the conference title last season. In 2015, CSU-Pueblo beat the Mavericks 51-20 and claimed its fifth conference title, but had to vacate that championship when it was discovered the ThunderWolves played an ineligible player. The conference awarded CMU the championship. ... Colorado Mesa QB Eystin Salum leads the RMAC and is second in the nation in passing yards per completion (17.25 yards), and is second in the RMAC in passing efficiency (57 of 93, 3 interceptions, 7 TDs) and total offense (325.2 yards per game). He’s No. 11 in the nation in total offense. Running back David Tann is 12th in the nation with six TDs. ... CSU-Pueblo linebacker Brandon Payer is 25th in the nation in solo tackles (6.3 per game). Running back Austin Micci is seventh in rushing TDs (7) and eighth in scoring (42). ... CSU-Pueblo has not lost a home game since Oct. 16, 2010, when Nebraska-Kearney came away with a 38-24 victory. Martin was UNK’s offensive coordinator at the time. “They haven’t lost there since 2010,” Clark said. “I’d love to be the team to do it. We’ve prepared for that and we’re ready for that.”

— Patti Arnold


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