Mistakes doom Colorado Mesa in season opener
A special-teams play and an interception return proved costly.
Humboldt State University returned a punt and an interception for a touchdown Thursday night to lift the No. 21 Lumberjacks to a 38-19 victory over Colorado Mesa University in a nonconference football opener at the Redwood Bowl in Arcata, Calif.
“We got our tails kicked tonight,” CMU coach Russ Martin said. “There were some good things, but there were a lot of things we can fix. We still have a chance be good team.”
The most costly mistakes were on turnovers or special teams.
A fumble on special teams led to an early Humboldt score, and the Lumberjacks returned a punt for a score for a 21-7 lead in the second quarter.
The Mavericks (0-1) had opportunities to close the gap in the third quarter, but missed two field goals, then saw a Humboldt safety return an interception for a touchdown and a 15-point lead late in the fourth quarter.
“Those were big points to the game,” Martin said. “We close (the lead) back down and they stretch the lead back out. The game is going to be won on five or six plays through the course of the game. We gave them big-play opportunities. The pass interception was huge.”
Colorado Mesa quarterback Deke Cisco completed 10 of 21 passes for 96 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Austen Fales played a few snaps at quarterback in the second half for the Mavericks, completing three of seven passes for 17 yards with one interception.
“I think there were some good things that happened,” Martin said. “Early in the game, Deke was pressing in the passing game, but we had a couple drops. Sometimes it snowballs. You need the receivers to make the catch when it’s there. It’s not one thing; it’s several things. Maybe we were pressing a little bit.
“As the game went on, Deke played very well in the second half. We wanted to give Austen an opportunity in the second half.”
Sophomore running back Jake Cimolino had 17 carries for 125 yards and a touchdown.
Cisco and the offense had to work from behind on Mesa’s first possession. Humboldt State (1-0) scored on the game’s opening drive, going 76 yards and ending with an Alex Rump 36-yard touchdown pass to Victor Spencer.
The Mavericks fumbled on the kick return, and Humboldt’s Nick Ricciardulli scored on a 1-yard run for a 14-0 lead.
“I thought our defense played really well against a good football team,” Martin said.” After that, the only thing they had was one big run. Most of the things they had — an interception return for a touchdown and the punt return — if you look at it, that’s basically it.”
Mesa responded with an eight-play drive capped by Cisco’s three-yard touchdown run.
The defenses settled in the second quarter, forcing each team to punt on three consecutive possessions. Then the Lumberjacks got a boost from their special teams with Spencer’s 52-yard punt return for a touchdown with 3:09 left.
Mesa moved into scoring territory on its next possession, but Cisco was intercepted near the end zone.
The Mavericks opened the second half with a drive into Humboldt territory, but had to settle for a field-goal attempt. Alex Zemezonak’s 43-yard attempt was wide right.
Humboldt’s Ricciardulli broke loose for a 64-yard touchdown on Humboldt’s first play after the missed field goal. The Lumberjacks led 28-7.
Cimolino answered with a 41-yard score with 6:41 left. Humboldt led 28-13.
The Mavs took advantage of a short punt and a short field, but Cisco was sacked on back-to-back plays, and Zemezonak missed a 34-yard field goal.
“We control those things,” Martin said. “Those aren’t things Humboldt did. Those are things we did to ourselves.”
CMU could’ve gotten within a touchdown and a two-point conversion.
Instead, Humboldt kicker Matt Bruder added a 43-yard field goal with 3:51 left in the fourth quarter for a 31-13 lead after a 10-play, 52-yard drive.
Lumberjacks safety Nick Sharpe picked off Fales and returned it 22 yards for a score for a 38-13 lead.
Mesa came back with a quick score as Cimolino went 30 yards on a shovel pass from Cisco with 2:20 left. Cisco’s pass on the two-point conversion failed.
“This gives us a measure of where we are against a good football team,” Martin said. “They are a big, physical football team. I don’t know if we’ll see another team as big and physical as they are.”
Colorado Mesa plays at Football Championship Series University of Northern Colorado at 1:35 p.m. Sept. 8. The game will be televised live on Altitude Sports & Entertainment.