KANSAS CITY, Kan. (December 20, 2014) – The Colorado State University-Pueblo football team capped a storybook season, blanking Minnesota State University, Mankato, 13-0, to win its first NCAA Division II National Championship in program history. The ThunderWolves' defense was the story of the game, shutting out a Mavericks' offense which came into the game ranked seventh in the nation in scoring offense at 42.9 points per game.
The win caps a school-record 14-1 season for CSU-Pueblo and gives the university its first Division II National Championship in any sport. The shutout was the first in the national title game since 1997 when Northern Colorado blanked New Haven, 51-0.
No. 1 ranked Minnesota State ran into a brick wall in the form of the CSU-Pueblo defense. The Pack held the Mavericks to 265 yards of total offense, which was 194.9 yards below their season average. Minnesota State came into the contest averaging 251.4 yards on the ground, but was held to just 105 yards by the stingy ThunderWolves' defense.
Two-time Gene Upshaw Award winner Darius Allen (DE, Sr., Pueblo, Colo.) led the Pack defense with eight tackles and 1.5 sacks. LaRon Tarkington (DB, So., Phoenix, Ariz.), Seth Brown (LB, So., Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Joe Rosenbrock (LB, Jr., Brush, Colo.) each matched Allen with eight tackles apiece. Josh Bredl (DE, Sr., Thornton, Colo.) added a sack and a blocked field goal for the ThunderWolves.
Offensively, Cameron McDondle (RB, Jr., Littleton, Colo.) finished the game with 113 yards on 28 carries to lead the Pack. The 100-yard game was McDondle's 11th in his last 12 games. Quaterback Chris Bonner (Sr., San Diego, Calif.) completed 17-of-30 pass attempts for 191 yards and one touchdown and one interception. Paul Browning (WR, Sr., Widefield, Colo.) was Bonner's top target, hauling in five receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown.
The ThunderWolves put together their first extended drive of the game on their third possession. CSU-Pueblo moved the ball from its own 20-yard line all the way to the Mavericks' 27-yard line thanks to a couple of long pass completions from Bonner to Browning. The Pack were not able to turn the drive into points, however, as Greg O'Donnell's 43-yard field-goal attempt sailed just wide of the right upright.
Minnesota State answered the Pack's drive with a lengthy possession of its own. The Mavericks drove 50 yards on 16 plays, but the CSU-Pueblo defense held up, stopping Minnesota State at the 11-yard line, setting up a 27-yard field goal attempt by Alden Haffar. Just as it has throughout the playoff run, the ThunderWolves' special teams unit came up with another big play, as Bredl burst through the line and blocked the kick. Stephan Dickens (CB, Sr., Aurora, Colo.) scooped up the loose ball and returned it 13 yards to the CSU-Pueblo 37-yard line.
Bredl's block set up the first score of the game for the ThunderWolves. O'Donnell capped a 10-play 53-yard drive with a 27-yard field goal, putting the Pack on top, 3-0, with 7:21 remaining until halftime. McDondle had the big play on that drive for CSU-Pueblo, scampering 34 yards all the way down to the Mavericks' 20-yard line.
After another strong defensive stand by its defense, CSU-Pueblo took possession of the ball at its own 31 with 5:30 showing on the first-half game clock. For the second-straight drive, the ThunderWolves marched the ball down the field into Minnesota State territory. On 3rd-and-5 from the Mavericks' 18-yard line, Bonner dropped back in the pocket and lofted a pass toward the back-corner of the endzone to Browning. The senior wideout out-battled the defender and snatched the ball out of the air for the touchdown. An O'Donnell extra point put the Pack on top 10-0 heading into the locker room for halftime.
The Pack extended their lead on their first drive of the second half. McDondle shouldered the load on the drive, breaking off a 19-yard run and taking a pass from Bonner 30 yards to help set up O'Donnell's second field goal of the game. O'Donnell's 24-yard field goal put CSU-Pueblo in front 13-0 with 3:12 elapsed in the third quarter.
The 13 points was more than enough for the ThunderWolves' defense. Minnesota State never advanced past the CSU-Pueblo 42-yard line and didn't threaten to score for the entirety of the second half.
After the Pack halted the Mavericks on their final drive of the game, CSU-Pueblo took over possession at its own 40-yard line. On the fourth play of the drive, McDondle barreled his way for 15 yards, pushing the junior over the 2,000-yard mark for the season. McDondle becomes the first player in program history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a single season.
McDondle's 15-yard run gave the Pack a first down. On the next three plays, CSU-Pueblo lined up in the victory formation as Bonner took a knee, finishing off the first national title in program history for the ThunderWolves.
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As a member of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, Colorado State University – Pueblo competes in 22 varsity sports in NCAA Division II intercollegiate athletics.