CHADRON, Neb. — September 28, 2019 — For the second straight week, Chadron State College football saw a close game slip away in the final seconds, as Colorado Mesa University sealed the game on CSC’s final drive with an interception return for a touchdown to win 42-30. CMU improved to 2-2 overall, and 2-1 in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play, while Chadron State is 1-3 on both accounts.
“This was just a battle of two really good teams,” said CSC Head Football Coach Jay Long. “When we talked before the game, Coach Martin and I both thought either of these teams could easily be 3-0 right now. When we were up there last year, we made the final play that decided the game, and just like last year, one team made a play at the end.
“What I’m proud of,” he added, “is that our guys came out and played with effort all four quarters. We never like losing, but it hurts a little bit less when your guys play hard.”
The game was a back-and-forth slugfest in which the lead changed five times. CMU led for nearly 21 minutes, combined, in the first half, while CSC was in control for the entire third quarter and nearly half of the fourth. What ultimately tipped things in the Mavericks’ favor were two interception returns for scores late in the fourth quarter.
Just one minute into the game, Mesa’s quarterback Aaron Howard found All-American receiver Peter Anderson for a 74-yard scoring strike.
On the Eagles’ ensuing possession, they drove 96 yards. Sophomore running back Elijah Myles covered the final 13 in a single rush, breaking multiple tackles along the way.
With CSC up 9-7 following a missed point-after try, Mesa retook the lead on a 44-yard boot by Lucas Ruiz-Diaz. However CSC went into halftime back on top 16-13, after another score by Myles and Ruiz-Diaz’s longest field goal of the season, from 51 yards out.
Chadron State seemed to be gaining separation in the third, when senior running back Stevann Brown burst through the line for a 19-yard touchdown, but Mesa answered with a 75-yard drive in which quarterback Hayden Bollinger took the ball into the endzone himself from three yards out.
A CSC drive stalled at the Mavericks’ 18, and the visitors went on an 82-yard tear to retake the lead for good at 27-23.
Despite the first pick-six by the Mavs, putting them up 35-23, the Eagles still had hope of a comeback when Mesa fumbled the ball and then Holst found junior wide receiver Cole Thurness over the middle for a 12-yard score.
Continuing to seize back the momentum, CSC’s Tevon Wright recovered an onside kick on the Mesa side of the field.
However the Mesa defense held, and in the closing minute of play, with one more opportunity to score, Mesa’s Justin White snagged an errant pass by Holst and weaved into the endzone to preserve the win for the Mavs.
Chadron State once again outgained its opponent on the field, albeit only by one yard, but it also registered 28 first downs to Mesa’s 20, and won time of possession by a slight margin. The Eagles gained a balanced 470 yards with 253 through the air and 217 on the ground.
Myles led the Eagles with 117 yards rushing, while Thurness had 98 yards on nine receptions.
CSC returns to the road October 5, traveling to Gunnison, Colorado, to face Western Colorado. The Mountaineers fell 38-31 at Adams State on Saturday to receive their first RMAC loss at 2-2 overall (2-1 RMAC).