Black Hills State enters Week 4 of the season undefeated for the first time since 2016.
The Yellow Jackets (3-0, 1-0 RMAC) held on to defeat Chadron State 34-23 on Saturday, their first win over the Eagles in six seasons.
BHSU hosts Colorado Mesa (1-1, 0-1 RMAC) on Saturday with the opportunity to start the season 4-0 for the first time since 1970.
Colorado Mesa is 8-2 against BHSU all-time and holds a three-game winning streak in the series. The Mavericks won last season’s matchup 52-9 on Nov. 6, 2021 in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Last time out
BHSU defeated Chadron State 34-23 on the road Saturday, while Colorado Mesa fell 34-17 to South Dakota Mines at home in its RMAC opener.
People are also reading…
Scouting Colorado Mesa
Colorado Mesa enters the weekend averaging 373 yards of total offense per game and has outscored opponents 54-45 through two games.
Quarterback Karst Hunter has completed 27 of 55 passes for a 49.09 completion percentage. He’s thrown for 463 yards and five touchdowns with one interception.
Four receivers — Kennan Brown, Noah Sarria, Jacob Whitmer and Dagan Rienks — have caught at least five Hunter passes. Brown leads the team in receiving yards with 169 on six catches for a pair of touchdowns.
Sarria is first in receptions with seven for 92 yards and one touchdown. Whitmer has caught five passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns.
The Mavericks average 90 rushing yards per game and are led by Jullen Ison. The running back leads the team with 29 carries for 110 yards but Isaac Maestas has the team’s only rushing touchdown.
Colorado Mesa has forced three fumbles and intercepted one pass on the season to enter the weekend even in turnover margin.
Defensively, the Mavericks have allowed 309 yards of total offense per game, due in large part to SD Mines’ offensive explosion for 460 yards last weekend.
Siaosi Finau, Scrappy Norman and Micah Smith lead Mesa in tackles with 13 each. Cam Nathan leads the team in tackles for loss with two for nine yards and in sacks with 1.5 for 8 yards.
Black Hills State has shown improvement on both sides of the ball in each week of the season.
The Yellow Jackets found a groove on Saturday’s victory over the Eagles. Chadron State outgained BHSU in total offense, but BHSU won the turnover battle 2-1 with an interception and forced fumble.
Aidan Willard continued to look impressive at quarterback and completed 24 of 33 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns with one interception.
The senior enters the weekend completing 70.89% of his passes for 680 yards and six touchdowns with four interceptions.
BHSU has two running backs in Nolan Susel and Cameron Goods who enter the weekend with over 100 yards on the ground. Susel leads the team with 49 carries for 264 yards (5.4 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. The Yellow Jackets average 167 rushing yards per game.
Hasaan Williams leads all receivers with 23 catches for 276 yards and three touchdowns. Three other receivers, Mitch McKibbin, Susel and Jamin Wurtz, have added at least eight receptions.
Defensively, the Yellow Jackets have limited opponents to 14.67 points per game and 321.7 yards per game. BHSU is even in turnover margin with five interceptions and two forced fumbles.
Aaron Thiele earned RMAC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his efforts against Chadron State. The linebacker racked up 12 tackles, a quarterback hurry and an interception in the fourth quarter last Saturday.
Thiele ranked fourth in the RMAC with 26 total tackles on the season and fifth in the conference with 8.7 tackles per game.
Keys to the game
In order to achieve its best start to a season in 52 years, Black Hills State needs to establish the line of scrimmage early on against Colorado Mesa to open the passing game.
Mavericks opponents have averaged 86 rushing yards per game, but passed for 283 yards per game.
Willard possesses the arm talent necessary to have a big game this weekend, particularly with a weapon like Williams at receiver, but the running game is the key to unleashing the BHSU offense.
Colorado Mesa struggled to run the ball against SD Mines last week as it averaged 2.1 yards per carry for 56 yards on 31 attempts. The inability to run the football stymied the Mavericks attack in the second half when it was outscored 24-17.
BHSU opponents have averaged 124 rushing yards per game this season. If the Yellow Jackets keep that number under 100 this week they will have the upper hand in the game.
Kickoff for the matchup between BHSU and Colorado Mesa is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Lyle Hare Stadium in Spearfish.
Contact Alex Dodd at ADodd@rapidcityjournal.com