Mistakes, missed chances hurt Mavs in loss to CSU-Pueblo
Mistakes and missed opportunities continue to plague the Colorado Mesa University football team.
The Mavericks had two costly early turnovers and failed to take advantage of some penalties, and that was all the No. 1-ranked team in NCAA Division II needed.
CSU-Pueblo used the mistakes Saturday night to keep its offense on the field and eventually wear down the Mavericks 48-10 at Stocker Stadium.
“The turnovers, especially early in the game, killed us,” CMU coach Russ Martin said. “They had short fields on two of their turnovers. We gave them a lot of things early. We put our defense on the field a lot more than they needed to be.
“Defensively, we made some good stops at times. Yet, we gave up a couple big plays. We gave them way too much field position and we wore down.”
CSU-Pueblo (9-0, 7-0 RMAC) amassed 509 yards of total offense (252 on the ground, 257 in the air) and had the ball for a shade more than 35 minutes.
The Mavericks (3-6, 3-4 RMAC) turned the ball over two times in the first half and failed to field a pooch kick, yet Mesa’s defense limited the ThunderWolves to one touchdown off the three mistakes.
“We played lights out in the beginning,” Mesa senior defensive end Domonique Lewis said. “I don’t know what it is, but we can’t figure out how to finish games. We had a chance, we really did. When it was 14-3, I thought, ‘Man, we’re going to get this.’ I think we got discouraged and made some bad decisions.”
CSU-Pueblo gave the Mavericks chances with a personal-foul penalty and a roughing-the-passer penalty on separate drives, but Mesa settled for three points.
The Mavs moved the ball into Pueblo territory six times.
“We had some good drives, but we’ve got to finish them,” Mesa quarterback Deke Cisco said. “It’s the little things in the red zone. Things get clustered up. It’s a matter of knowing your assignment and making the right reads.”
Mesa had a golden opportunity to score on its second possession after a Trent deBraga 48-yard kickoff return and a CSU-Pueblo personal foul. The Mavericks were in scoring territory when Cisco fumbled the snap from Austin Bennett. The ThunderWolves recovered.
“I’ve got to get the snap,” Cisco said. “I’ve got to make sure I hang on to the ball. Turnovers have definitely killed us this year. You can’t turn the ball over, period.”
The Mavericks drove the ball to Pueblo’s two-yard line on their third possession of the game but settled for an Alex Zemezonak 21-yard field goal.
CSU-Pueblo took advantage of Mesa’s second fumble, a mishandled exchange between Cisco and Jake Cimolino, and scored for a 14-3 lead early in the second quarter.
“I think we made big mistakes tonight,” said Cimolino, who rushed for 106 yards. “Those two turnovers in the first half, that was huge and changed momentum of the game. Looking at this game, we did do some great things in the first quarter. We were driving it on them, we were on the two-yard line, and we couldn’t put it in. Little things like that we have to learn to finish and continue to build next year.”
The ThunderWolves lofted a pooch kick and recovered it, but Mesa’s defense made a stand on fourth-and-one.
“I think they were trying to keep us from a big return,” Martin said. “We had a couple. We practice that each week.”
CSU-Pueblo returned a Mesa punt 29 yards into Mesa territory then scored on a 24-yard pass from Ross Dausin to Paul Browning for a 21-3 lead. The ThunderWolves added two field goals before the half for a 27-3 lead.
They opened the second half with an 86-yard drive for a touchdown and a 34-3 lead.
Mesa finally found the end zone early in the fourth quarter when Cisco scored from one yard out. He hit DJ Hubbard for a 43-yard pass on the drive to set up the score.