Backup Punter Faces Attempted Murder Charges for Stabbing Rival

Prosecutors filed a charge of attempted first-degree murder Thursday against a former University of Northern Colorado backup punter accused of stabbing his rival in the kicking leg.

Mitchell Cozad, 21, is accused of stabbing starter Rafael Mendoza on Sept. 11 outside Mendoza's apartment. Mendoza, who has returned to the team, was treated for a 3- to 5-inch deep puncture wound in his right thigh and released.

Cozad, of Wheatland, Wyo., also faces one count of second-degree assault. Prosecutors said he could face up to 48 years in prison if convicted.

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His attorney, Joseph A. Gavaldon, did not immediately return a call.

Police Lt. Gary Kessler said at the time the motive appeared to be competition for the starting job.

The attack prompted comparisons to an attack by skater Tonya Harding's hitman on Nancy Kerrigan.

Cozad was suspended from the team and the university.