Mesa tops Western with strong performance after halftime
For the second time in three weeks, the Mesa State College football team trailed in the second half.
Once again, the Mavericks found a way to win.
This time, they defeated rival Western State College 29-19 on Thursday night in front 3,808 fans at Stocker Stadium and a national television audience.
“Mental toughness is huge,” Mesa State quarterback Phil Vigil said. “No one hangs their heads when we’re down. Against Mines, it was the same thing. We have the attitude to go do it. We are a blue-collar team.”
The Mavericks (6-2, 6-0 RMAC) were trailing 19-14 early in the third quarter, but instead of abandoning the running game and hitting the panic button, they stayed with their formula.
Bobby Coy ran for 96 of his 153 yards in the second half, including a 4-yard touchdown run to give Mesa a 21-19 lead in the third quarter.
It was the seventh time this season Coy ran for more than 100 yards.
“Bobby is a workhorse for us,” Mesa State coach Joe Ramunno said. “We talk about taking him out a series, but we can’t do it. He is such a competitor. I’m glad he wears a Mavs logo. He is a team guy.”
Western State (2-5, 2-4 RMAC) pinned the Mavericks on their own 1 on Mesa’s next possession.
That just gave Mesa a chance to run down the clock while mounting a 13-play drive, finishing with a Vigil 9-yard touchdown run. Vigil completed a pass to Ricky Noble for the two-point conversion and a 29-19 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Mesa State had a chance to put the game away midway through the fourth quarter, but cornerback Brendan Zink intercepted Vigil in the end zone.
The Mountaineers quickly moved into scoring position with a 60-yard reception by Dusten Copeland. Mesa, though, forced a field goal attempt.
Mesa sophomore nose tackle Tony Kelly blocked the field goal, Nate Dolan recovered, but the officials ruled Mesa fumbled, giving the ball back to Western.
“That lit a fire under us,” Kelly said.
The Mavericks’ defense rose to the occasion, forcing Western into a fourth-and-6 situation. Defensive end Nainoa Campbell hit Western quarterback Cameron Merrill, forcing a fumble that Mesa recovered. The Mavs then ran out the clock.
“We knew it was a passing situation,” Campbell said. “I was trying to get the edge and bounce under and hit him. I heard the crowd going crazy. I thought he got the ball away.”
Western State was poised for an upset, coming out with a little surprise on its first play from scrimmage. Merrill handed off to Nathan Acrey, who pitched it back the quarterback on a flea-flicker, and Merrill hit a wide-open Copeland for a 66-yard pass deep into Mesa territory. Copeland, who was questionable for the game with abdominal and calf injuries, had three catches for 136 yards.
Two plays later, Rasheed Smith caught a 19-yard swing pass from Merrill and ran it into the corner of the end zone for a touchdown.
The Mountaineers had Mesa on its heels for a while, forcing a fumble and blocking a Jared Keating field goal attempt.
“It was working for awhile,” Western State coach Pat Stewart said. “We’ve got to continue it. Our kids fought, but they played better than us.”
It wasn’t until the second quarter when the Mavericks turned it around, beginning with an interception by Kelly.
“I was just doing my job,” Kelly said. “I practice hard and play as hard as I can for the boys.”
Seven plays later, Coy scored on a 10-yard run to tie the game.
Mesa’s defense forced a third Western punt, Derek Thorne blocked it and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead.
“We knew we could block it,” Thorne said. “They run a spread look. We knew they couldn’t stop everybody.”
Western State came back and punched it in the end zone on fourth-and-goal with five seconds left
in the first half, but Kelly blocked the point after attempt. Mesa led 14-13 at half.
The Mountaineers opened the second half with a 67-yard drive, capped by an Acrey 22-yard touchdown run, but the point-after hit the upright. Western led 19-14.