Saturday proved to be a great day for Colorado Mesa University football. With the late start time, the Mavericks got to watch the then 2-4 Fort Lewis Skyhawks upset the 5-1 CSU-Pueblo Thunderwolves 35-24. With the loss, the Mavericks saw something in within their reach: first place in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
CMU utilized that extra motivation in the game, while on the road against Dixie State, whom they lost to in a close game last season 38-31. Behind David Tann’s five touchdowns, the Mavericks were able to come back and win the game 35-22. The win moved CMU to 6-1 on the year and into sole possession of first place in the RMAC.
While this is great news for all CMU football fans, the regular season is not over. CMU has not won their third straight RMAC title (yet). The Mavericks are not in the NCAA DII playoffs (yet). There are still four games to play, so this is no time to let up and get comfortable.
Three of the team’s final four games are on the road and three of them are against RMAC opponents. They are all winnable games for the Mavericks, but they can also be trap games. And CMU cannot afford to lose another game this season if they wish to have a chance at a national championship.
CMU’s conference opponents for the next three weeks are Adams State University (3-4), New Mexico Highlands University (2-5) and South Dakota Mines (4-3). Then the Mavericks wrap up the season on the road in California against Azusa Pacific (4-3).
Last season CMU defeated all four of these opponents and put up at least 33 points in all four games. This included an 87-point outburst against New Mexico Highlands. So it is possible that this CMU team is able to do the same this season.
However, because the Mavericks have a very good chance of doing this, that is exactly why this team could not afford to lose even one of these games. CMU cannot get complacent.
This team cannot walk into any one of these final four games with the mindset that they have already won before stepping out onto the field. While the opponents are not the most threatening from the stat sheet, they can’t be taken lightly.
First off, last season the Mavericks played three of these games at Stocker Stadium and had the home field advantage on their side. This year CMU will be on the road for the majority. That means a lot of travel time and going into hostile environments.
When you combine that with the fact that these four teams are no longer playing for a conference title or playoff berth, so they are only looking for a chance to be spoilers, meaning they have nothing to lose. If they lose to the Mavericks, who cares. They were supposed to lose. But if they win, then they not only pull off an upset, but they end a conference rival’s chance at a playoff berth.
Right now the Mavericks are playing a brand of football that fits their style of play. They are playing fast-paced offensively and putting up a lot of points. Eystin Salum and David Tann are monsters on the ground and keep the defense on their heels. Then, when you combine the resurgence of Virnel Moon and receivers Josh Brown and Peter Anderson on the outside, the offense has weapons at every angle.
On defense, they are playing a bend, but not break approach. Opponents are going to score points and put up a lot of yards. CMU allows almost 25 points and 433 yards per game to the opposition. But when the time comes for a stop, CMU defense has come up big.
But this team has to continue to play their style of football for the final month. They cannot go back to the team that gets unnecessary penalties, have mental lapses on both sides of the ball and let a team hang around to give them life.
CMU needs to attack early and attack often, to get ahead early in these games. They cannot be playing from behind. If any of the four opponents sniffs blood in the water, they are going to do everything in their power to make sure the Mavericks go home with a loss. Because once again, they have nothing to lose in these games.
The quest for 10-1 and a first place finish in the RMAC starts now.