Two teams that like to go vertical instead kept the ball on the ground Saturday.
Colorado Mesa turned to its running game against Adams State, controlling the clock and keeping the Grizzlies' high-octane offense on the sideline.
The Mavericks were still explosive in a 35-13 victory, thanks to a 52-yard run by wide receiver Peter Anderson on the first play of the game on a reverse.
That set up a 10-yard run by Isaac Maestas and a 1-yard touchdown run by Rope Ruel, who rotated with Aaron Howard at quarterback.
"When Aaron or Hayden (Bollinger) have started, they've been a little on the nervous side, a little anxious. They tend to do better off the bench," CMU coach Russ Martin said.
"We told them, the last two weeks, you're all three going to play, period. By Thursday we had decided to start Rope and use him to get the flow of the game started and use all three."
Then Bollinger came down with the flu and by the time the Mavs got to the field to warm up, he was too ill to play.
Maestas was injured on his only carry of the game, but Jesse Rodriquez had an outstanding game, rushing 20 times for 129 yards and one touchdown, the first 100-yard rushing game for the redshirt freshman.
The Grizzlies were forced to run the ball after the RMAC's second-leading passer, John Buska, was injured on a first-quarter run.
He hurdled over CMU safety Darian Turner and was tackled near the sideline. He stayed on the ground, being checked by trainers, and did not return to the game.
Instead of the nearly 250 passing yards Buska averages, Adams State finished with 112. The Grizzlies ran for 238, getting 102 from Otumus Payemanu, 61 on one carry, a first-quarter touchdown.
Mesa (5-5, 5-4 RMAC) ran the ball 50 times for 291 yards. Ruel threw for 84 yards and Howard 79, and most importantly, the Mavericks did not commit a turnover.
Nick Ciccio had three takeaways for the Mavs' defense, two interceptions and one fumble recovery.
"If he is not one of the best defensive players in the conference, something's wrong," Martin said. "He's been an outstanding tackler all year, interceptions, has made phenomenal plays. That one he just snatched the ball out of the guy's hands."
Tied 7-7, the Mavericks converted Ciccio's first interception into the go-ahead touchdown.
Taking over at the Adams State 37 early in the second quarter, Rodriquez picked up 18 yards on two carries. After an incomplete pass, Ruel gave it to Rodriquez again, who broke off a run to the left and bulled into the end zone from 19 yards out for a 14-7 halftime lead.
Anderson caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Howard and Trey Windham scored on an 8-yard run in the third quarter, then broke off a 17-yard touchdown run in the fourth to build a 35-7 lead.
"We felt we could run the football," Martin said. "They did a good job up front stopping some things; they've got good players. People don't give them as much credit as they deserve.
"We played really good defense. We had one missed fit and the guy took it to the house but you take that away and we played really well."
Losing Maestas not only meant the Mavs lost their starting running back, but their punter and punt returner. KJ Sapp returned punts and Blake Moore handled all of the kicks — Lucas Ruiz-Diaz, who usually kicks extra points and field goals, was also out.
The victory puts CMU in position to finish the season with a winning record for the sixth straight season. The Mavs play New Mexico Highlands at home Saturday in the season finale. The Cowboys upended Western Colorado 24-22 in Gunnison for their second win of the season.
"I'm so proud of these guys," Martin said. "They've been resilient in all sorts of situations. They've had two teammates pass away, parents of a player pass away in a car accident. They've continued to grow.
"It's been a fun group to coach; they've kept battling and playing together and competing."