Cops Seek 2nd Suspect in Punter Stabbing
Sep. 17, 2006
SAN MARCOS, Texas (AP) _ The irony that Northern Colorado, down three punters after a week of controversy, won with a blocked punt was not lost on coach Scott Downing. ``I don't even know what to say about that,'' said Downing, who lost two punters this week in a bizarre stabbing scandal that brought national attention to the small university about 60 miles north of Denver.
The Bears beat Texas State 14-13 on Saturday night for their first win on the road in three seasons.
``It has been a tough week, but you know these guys, they're the type they survive a lot of stuff,'' Downing said.
Bears punter Rafael Mendoza was treated Monday for a 3- to 5-inch deep puncture wound and released from the hospital after being stabbed outside his apartment in Evans, near Greeley, Colo.
Police arrested backup punter Mitch Cozad on Tuesday, accusing the sophomore of plunging a knife into the thigh of Mendoza's kicking leg, hoping to take his teammate's place on the field. Neither punter attended the game.
The winning punt block came late in the second quarter. Jacob Carlson's rush pushed the upback into Texas State punter Chris MacDonald, and Matt West picked up the ball and scored with 7 seconds left in the first half to give the Bears a 14-0 lead.
Jason Hildenbrand, a strong safety, took on punting duties for Northern Colorado during the first three quarters _ until he got injured on the field. By the end of the game, the Bears were using fourth-string kicker Michael York, whose first punt traveled a wobbly 7 yards.
Downing said Mendoza is healing rapidly, but said he did not know when the junior would be back on the field. Cozad is free on bond, but has been suspended from the university.
``I just want our team to get back to normal,'' he said.
Downing said the tumultuous week brought the players together. They prayed for their injured teammate before and after the game, he said. And, many of them wrote the initials RM on their arms before kickoff.
Hildenbrand averaged 29.3 yards in six punts after not having punted since high school in 2001. He described the past week as ``bizarre to say the least'' and called the win ``pretty satisfactory.''
``I just really didn't want to mess up too bad,'' he said.
Texas State coach David Bailiff said he was concerned going into the game that the week's events had given the opposition the resolve to rally for a win.
``That gave them cause,'' he said. ``They're holding together a football team.''