Turnovers, missed chances haunt Mavericks in loss
The game of football often is determined by a handful of factors. Saturday’s 27-10 Colorado School of Mines win over Colorado Mesa was no different.
Turnovers, missed opportunities and big plays made the difference.
The turnover battle turned out to be a tie with both teams handing the ball back to their opponent three times.
All three interceptions thrown by CMU quarterback Aric Kaiser were big. One interception ended a drive after the Mavs drove inside the Orediggers’ 30. A second-quarter interception at the Orediggers 2-yard line ended the Mavs’ best chance for a touchdown in the first half. The third pickoff set up a late Mines’ TD in the fourth quarter.
Both teams had their chances to score, especially in the first half, but the only score of the half was a 33-yard field goal by CMU’s Tanner Donahue.
Donahue had a field goal attempt blocked in the first quarter, and Kaiser was under heavy pressure when he was picked off at the Mines 2-yard line.
Mines twice drove inside the Mavericks’ 10 only to see nothing for their efforts. On their opening drive, Mines went for it on fourth down but was stopped inches short at the 4-yard line. Then, CMU linebacker Marc Palacios forced a fumble, and safety Travis McRae recovered it at the 9.
The Mavs struggled on offense in the third quarter and only had one real scoring opportunity when Donahue missed a field goal attempt from 53 yards.
Two plays into the fourth quarter, CMU safety Michael Brady kept the Orediggers off the scoreboard with an interception in the end zone.
QB shines in first start
Redshirt freshman quarterback Justin Dvorak really found his groove in the second half for the Orediggers. Making the first start of his career, the Texas native threw for 356 yards and two TDs. He was also the Orediggers’ leading rusher with 62 yards.
Dvorak had 189 of his passing yards in the fourth quarter. After the Brady interception at the beginning of the final quarter, Dvorak completed seven of 11 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown.
Big plays eventually arrive
The Orediggers’ offense erupted in the fourth quarter after being shut out through three quarters.
The Mavs’ secondary did a good job for most of the game, but one big play shifted the momentum and complexion of the game with Mesa clinging to the 3-0 lead. With 13 minutes remaining, the Orediggers faced a third-and-10 from its own 25. That’s when Dvorak threw a perfect deep ball to Ty Young, who had a couple of steps of open space. The play went for 73 yards, and the Orediggers scored one play later to make the score 6-3.
On Mines’ next drive, Dvorak threw to Jimmy Ellis for 31 yards, then found Young for 48 yards to set up another TD.
Young finished with 162 yards on seven catches.
Fourth down’s not a charm
In the first half, Mines kept its kicking team on the sidelines and went for it three times on fourth down. The Orediggers were stuffed on all of them.
The biggest stop was on Mines’ first drive when they were stopped a few inches short of a first down at the 4-yard line. Mines came into the game leading the nation in fourth-down efficiency at about 68 percent. They finished 1 for 5 on Saturday, finally converting inside the 5-yard line with 4:07 remaining in the game.
Tough rush defense
The Orediggers played quality run defense and kept CMU’s explosive Jake Cimolino in check. The Mavs’ third all-time-leading rusher had 68 yards on 22 carries, a 3.1-yard average.
Kickers kept busy
It’s never good when the punter is busy, and Michael Brady was extremely busy for the Mavs. He punted seven times, including six in the second half.
Brady was effective, averaging more than 45 yards per kick, and two punts were downed inside the 20.
Donahue, a redshirt freshman, had his 43-yard field goal attempt blocked in the first quarter, and he came up short on a 53-yard attempt in the third quarter.
His 33-yard field goal was the only score of the first half. He also knocked a Mines runner out of bounds after his kickoff to begin the second quarter.
By keeping Mines off the scoreboard through three quarters, the Mavericks’ defense pushed its scoreless streak to seven quarters. The streak ended with a Mines’ TD early in the fourth quarter.
CMU had owned the fourth quarter this season, outscoring its opponents 41-13 in the first seven games, but not against Mines. The Orediggers outscored the Mavs 27-7 in the fourth.
CMU came into the game leading the nation in interceptions. Brady added to that total with two picks to give him four on the season. The Mavs had two other interceptions nullified by penalty.
This year’s CMU Hall of Honor inductees were recognized at halftime: CMU football players Larry and Michael Brunson, women’s soccer player Cheryl Bates-Olson and The Daily Sentinel’s Patti Arnold.
Mines junior Kole Kadavy had a big sack on a fourth down to halt a CMU drive in the first half. He had two older brothers who played for CMU.
Saturday’s homecoming game crowd has big but not quite the largest of the year. The 4,393 in attendance fell short of the opening day crowd of 5,312.
Five players in the RMAC have been suspended for at least one half for targeting (helmet-to-helmet hits) this year, according to the RMAC Football Supervisor of Officials Gene Bowman.
Two of them were caught on film and suspended for one game, including Colorado Mesa’s Marc Palacios earlier this season. Three were penalized on the field and had to sit out the next half.
“The purpose of it is for the safety factor,” Bowman said. “The NCAA wants the concussion issue under control, simply no head-to-head contact.
“I think it’s good. We’ve seen some vicious hits in football. There is no room for that today.”
Officials started calling targeting penalties in the 2012 season. Players weren’t suspended for targeting until this season.
— Sentinel reporter Allen Gemaehlich contributed to this story.