Starting the right way

Defense, running game lift Colorado Mesa to first season-opening win since 2007

Colorado Mesa running back Jake Cimolino looks for some running room Saturday during the first half of the Mavs’ 34-0 victory over Menlo at Stocker Stadium. Cimolino rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns, taking some of the pressure of the Mesa quarterbacks.

Starting quarterback Aric Kaiser, right, left the game Saturday with an injured left knee after this hit by Menlo’s Gabriel Deol.

For the first time in six years, the Colorado Mesa University football team started the season on the right foot.

The Mavericks opened the 2013 season with a 34-0 victory over Menlo (Calif.) College on Saturday night at Stocker Stadium.

“For too long we’ve been a team that gets run over our first game,” Mesa senior linebacker Jake Edmiston said. “We needed to turn that around. We have big plans for this team. We have big plans for the future.

“Coach (Tom) Spicer, our AD, came in and said, ‘You haven’t won an opening game since 2007, but you freshmen now know that is the expectation. We’ve got to keep the train rolling. Take the parking brake off and let it go.’ “

It was Mesa’s first season-opening victory since 2007 when it defeated Dixie State (Utah) College 41-14. It was also Mesa’s first shutout since that season. The Mavericks made the NCAA Division II playoffs that season.

“This is awesome,” junior running back Jake Cimolino said. “This is exactly what we wanted and what we were trying to do. Everyone believed it, and we came out and did it.”

Mesa (1-0) ended the opening-game losing streak with defense and the running game. The defense limited Menlo to 204 yards of total offense and 14 first downs. CMU’s offense produced 409 yards, including 243 on the ground.

Cimolino rushed for 120 yards (8.0 per carry) and two touchdowns. Ricky Trinidad ran for 91 yards.

“Our passing game is developing. We did some great things tonight, but our running game is our bread and butter,” Cimolino said. “When things aren’t working, we’ve always got that.”

Trinidad said the 5,312 people in attendance should get used to those numbers.

“It’s going to be unstoppable: me and Jake, and the O-line opening up holes,” Trinidad said. “It’s going to be fun to watch. If you don’t buy a ticket and see this, you’re missing out.”

They took the load off the quarterbacks, who had to make a switch after the second series when starter Aric Kaiser went down with a left knee injury.

“I don’t know the severity of it,” CMU coach Russ Martin said. “I know it’s pretty sore. He’ll get treatment on it, and we’ll see how it goes.”

Kyle Duran came in and took advantage of a Jordan Price interception, leading Mesa to a 30-yard touchdown drive for a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter. Cimolino scored on a 1-yard run.

Two possessions later, Duran led Mesa to another touchdown. This time, he faked a handoff to Cimolino and scored on a 1-yard plunge.

Cimolino scored his second touchdown on another 1-yard dive with 1:11 left in the first half for a 21-0 lead.

Duran completed 16 of 29 passes for 142 yards. He was sacked three times.

“We know we can still be a lot better,” Martin said of the offense. “Part of it is they gave multiple looks inside, and that created a lot of inside pressures. That makes it a little tough on the linemen in the first game.

“There were also some things our quarterbacks missed on a couple checks. What was exciting, when they came off the field, Kyle understood. He knew what he should’ve done, but he’s a fast learner. He won’t miss it the next game.”

Menlo’s defense forced the Mavericks to go three-and-out on their first possession of the second half. Mesa came back with a Tanner Donahue 46-yard field goal midway through the third quarter for a 24-0 lead.

Donahue tacked on a 42-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter for a 27-0 lead.

Redshirt freshman Jerreon Dennis put the Mavs up 34-0 late in the game on a 1-yard run for the Grand Junction High School alum’s first collegiate touchdown.


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