Spirited final scrimmage shows Mavs ready for season
Now they can get to work.
Game prep work, that is.
With the season opener only eight days away, the Colorado Mesa football team begins game planning today for Western State. Tuesday’s 90-minute scrimmage was scheduled for a school night on purpose, since the opener is on a Thursday night.
“It’s a little different because of the day schedule, guys will be in class, and there are some things we have to adjust a little bit,” coach Russ Martin said. “That’s also why we wanted to do this tonight. They were in class today they had to kind of turn the switch from being in class to being in football.”
From all indications, the Mavericks are ready to start focusing on hitting someone other than their teammates.
The scrimmage was spirited, from the first big hit defensive back Antonio Clark put on a receiver, to a big gain by Daryl Hawkins on a sweep, to quarterback Eystin Salum somehow escaping a sack to pick up a first down.
Then there was defensive end Blake Nelson, only a few plays after taking a hit in his side that left him gasping for air, returning to tip a pass and make a diving interception. Things got really spirited when backup QB Rope Ruel scrambled toward the end zone, slid at the last second on the sideline and was hit by Nelson.
Ruel’s offensive teammates took exception and there was plenty of pushing and shoving, with both sidelines clearing as every coach’s whistle blew and they barked to break it up.
“I shared with them I love the energy, but everyone who came into that deal (from the sideline) is going to be out. They’ve got to learn if something happens, you can’t leave the dang sideline,” Martin said. “We’ve got to have better self discipline.”
The majority of the scrimmage had the No. 1 offense going against the No. 1 defense, with the No. 2 teams squaring off, but players were also mixed in to simulate game action.
The offense had its moments, but the timing of the passing game was off.
The Mavs’ defense had a lot to do with that, especially the No. 1 unit, which got all kinds of pressure on the quarterbacks. The secondary stayed with receivers, breaking up passes, and the defense didn’t give up a touchdown during the live portion of the scrimmage.
Jonathon Beverly scored during a red zone drill, but when the offense moved into scoring range, the defense made play after play.
“We’ve got a lot of experience back and now those guys are getting into game shape,” Martin said. “When Tommy Saager is in there, Blake Nelson, Dustin Rivas, DT (Darian Turner), those guys are starting to play lights-out. Tony Clark ... I’m really happy with the way our corners are playing. If we can stay healthy, of being outstanding on defense.”
Martin knows the offense will be just fine. Hawkins broke off a couple of big runs and he, Brett Oyiji and Beverly all ran hard.
Starting running back David Tann watched from the sideline, and Salum only played a couple of series.
The coaches wanted Ruel to get plenty of reps, plus two freshmen QBs, Aaron Howard and Brevinn Tyler. All four had ups and downs, but there were too many dropped passes and overthrown balls.
“A lot of good things happened, but we have to have receivers make some catches,” Martin said. “We had a couple of times where we had big, big (plays) and we have to make those plays. I believe we will.
“Overall I was very pleased with the energy and fire, the enthusiasm. The tempo was good; we wanted to be game tempo and we had great tempo.”
While the players are in class today, the coaches will break down the scrimmage film, then go through their notes during position meetings. At 3:45 p.m., all attention turns to the Mountaineers.
“Starting (today) we start getting ready for Western,” Martin said. “Everything we start doing is geared for them.”