MONMOUTH -- For the second week in a row, Western Oregon saw a game slip away from its grasp on an untimely turnover just before the half.
This time, on Sept. 27, it was Mesa State of Colorado pulling away for a 29-21 win on a 92-degree day in front of 3,200 at McArthur Field.
With 25 seconds left in the second quarter of a 14-14 game, a Western Oregon drive stalled. On the ensuing punt, Wolves punter Lucas Taroli bobbled the snap and Mesa State linebacker Chris Echols broke through the line, blocked the kick and sped 30 yards for a touchdown. After the Mavericks successfully ran for two points on a fake (holder Pat Reiman), Mesa State went into the break ahead 22-14 and never trailed again.
"We've managed to pull out some tight games against Mesa State, but this time the tables were turned on us," said Western Oregon head coach Duke Iverson, whose team had won the last three meetings between the two school by three points or less. "It's hard to regain momentum after a play like that right before the half. Even though we had chances to catch back up, we just weren't able to come up with the right plays when we needed them."
Western Oregon's first two series of the second half ended in interceptions, the second of which Echols returned 60 yards for Mesa State's final touchdown. The Wolves' Ryan Thorson did connect on a 70-yard pass over the defense to Mike Hinshaw for a touchdown to bring Western Oregon to within 29-21 on the last play of the third quarter. But WOU's two fourth-quarter possessions were both three-and-out, and Mesa State concentrated on time-eating running plays to preserve their lead on their fourth-quarter possessions.
"Other than the big pass play to Hinshaw, we never got any offensive momentum in the second half," said Iverson. "And Mesa State's running game wore us down a bit on defense, so they were able to manage the clock well."
While Mesa State only had a 358-300 advantage in total offense, the Mavericks had 57 running plays compared to WOU's 56 total plays, and Mesa State's time of possession was 37:14 compared to the Wolves' 22:38.
Mesa State quarterback Jeff Mowry led a balanced attack. He was the game's leading rusher with 69 yards, and he passed for 167 yards (7-for-18) and a touchdown. Michael Ramirez had 55 yards rushing for WOU and Ivan McCrae added another 41. Brad Satran caught six of Thorson's passes for 60 yards, and Hinshaw had three grabs for 86 yards.
The Wolves will now hit the road for three straight games, taking on NCAA Div. I-AA Southern Utah next Saturday, Oct. 4 at 6 p.m. PDT.