After winning their season-openers, the Chadron State College and Colorado Mesa University football teams will tangle in Grand Junction, Colorado at 1 p.m. Saturday in a crucial Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference game.
The Eagles primarily relied on their defense and special teams in getting past Fort Lewis 17-10 while Mesa scored in each quarter and defeated Western State 34-14 last Saturday.
Mesa finished 9-2 overall and lost to only Colorado State-Pueblo in conference play last season. It was Mesa’s best record since going 10-2 in 2003. The Mavericks came from behind to trip the Eagles 23-13 last Sept. 26 in Chadron.
The Mavericks were second in this year’s RMAC preseason poll, behind only Pueblo, but the ThunderWolves were thumped 57-21 by Colorado Mines in their season-opener.
Mines was third, Western State fourth and Chadron State fifth in the preseason poll.
Although the Eagles won their opener, the offense managed just 166 net yards, one of their lowest totals since they joined the RMAC in 1991. Head coach Jay Long said he was disappointed with the offensive line play.
“Everybody knows we’ve got to do much better,” Long said. “We wanted to run the ball, but we never got going. It’s a good thing we had three takeaways and blocked a punt.”
Fort Lewis was limited to 264 yards and returned just one punt for three yards.
In Mesa’s victory over Western, the Mavericks accumulated 514 total net yards and Western gained 356.
Three of Mesa’s four touchdowns drives were at least 71 yards long and the other followed a 52-yard march. The Mavs also kicked two short field goals after driving 61 and 67 yards.
Russ Martin, a native of Scottsbluff who played linebacker at Chadron State for coach Sparky Adams in the mid-1970s, is in his fifth season as Mesa’s head coach. His son, Ben, who was on the CSC coaching staff for five years before joining his father in Grand Junction, moved up to defensive coordinator this fall.
Last year’s game in Chadron wasn’t pretty as far as the Eagles were concerned. Mesa kicked off and had a 6-0 lead eight seconds later after CSC bobbled the ball at the goal line and a Maverick claimed it in the end zone.
The Eagles retaliated when Colin Eisenman, who also blocked the punt that led to the Eagles’ first touchdown against Fort Lewis on Saturday, stuffed Mesa’s opening punt and Conor Casey took the ball 29 yards to the end zone for a touchdown.
The Eagles’ Alex Ferdinand also booted two field goals in the second quarter and CSC led 13-6 at halftime. But the Eagles were blanked in the second half while the Mavericks posted two TDs and kicked a field goal for the verdict.
It was Mesa’s first victory over the Eagles since 2003. CSC leads the all-time series 19-6.
As potent as the Mavericks’ offense was against Western State, the defense is projected to be the team’s primary strength. Five Mavs, all of them juniors, were among the 12 players placed on the RMAC’s preseason defensive team.
After the trip to Grand Junction, the Eagles will play four of their next five games at home. Western State will visit on Saturday, September 17 for Family Day.