PUEBLO, Colo. (November 12, 2016) - The Colorado State University-Pueblo football team finished the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference season 8-2 following a 27-14 victory against Chadron State College at the Neta and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl Saturday. The record earned the ThunderWolves a share of the 2016 RMAC Championship, the program's sixth title overall and fifth in the last six seasons.
The ThunderWolves capped 2016 8-3 overall for their seventh straight season with eight or more victories.CSU-Pueblo was ranked No. 10 in the final regular season NCAA Super Region Four poll, but the top seven advance to the national tournament and the Pack will likely be on the outside looking in this season.
The RMAC title was shared with Colorado Mesa University and Colorado School of Mines. The Pack won the regular season championship in 1980, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
The Pack ended the season on a six-game winning streak where the defense didn't allow more than 14 points in a game.
CSU-Pueblo earned the win by holding Chadron State to 197 total yards, creating five turnovers (21 points off turnovers) and getting key performances from unlikely student-athletes.
After trailing 14-0 in the first, the ThunderWolves scored twice in the second quarter to get within one at 14-13. A scoreless third had the Pack trailing into the fourth quarter, but two touchdown strikes sealed the win and the title.
The Pack looked flat in the first and it took until halfway through the second to get a spark from senior safety Joseph Jones (Fountain, Colo.), who scored the first touchdown of his football career on an 82-yard interception return. Jones finished with seven tackles (two solo), a tackle for loss (-1 yard) and a fumble recovery.
Sophomore quarterback AJ Thompson (Denver, Colo.) entered the game in the second quarter after the starter for the last nine games, Rex Dausin (Jr., San Antonio, Texas), couldn't find a way to move the ball. The Pack had just one first down in the first quarter and had an interception by Dausin early in the second inserted Thompson for a try.
The change of quarterbacks proved fruitful when, after the Pack defense forced a three-and-out following the pick-six, Thompson orchestrated a 10-play, 74-yard drive to the end zone. He found senior wide receiver Larry Clark (Los Angeles, Calif.) from 23 yards out to move the score to 14-13 (blocked extra point) entering halftime.
It was all defense for both squads in the third quarter, which included Jones recovering a fumble at the CSC 45 to set up the Pack offense with 17 ticks left in the third. The ThunderWolves didn't waste the opportunity and went the 45 yards in seven plays to the end zone. Thompson found Clark again, this time for a three-yard strike. The mobile quarterback then used his legs to convert a two-point attempt and the pack were ahead 21-14.
Clark finished with seven receptions for 69 yards and the two scores.
The Pack defense continued to do their job, while the special teams unit got in on the action late with a recovered fumble off a muffed punt to set up the offense at the CSC 36. The Pack were in the end zone four plays later, but it wasn't easy, as freshman tight end Morgan Smith (Aurora, Colo.) ended up recovering a fumble in the painted area to score his first collegiate touchdown.
The ThunderWolves recognizes 19 seniors before the contest.
One of those seniors was the top tackler, as linebacker Samuel Singleton (Denver, Colo.) totaled 12 tackles (one solo) with a tackle for loss and two quarterback hurries. Fellow inside linebacker, sophomore Brandon Payer (Pine, Colo.) totaled 10 tackles (two solo) with a tackle for loss (-1 yard), while outside linebacker, senior Ryan Merrill (Scottsdale, Ariz.) posted nine tackles (two solo) with a QB hurry.
Thompson finished the game 12-for-21 for 117 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Clark was the leading receiver, while Austin Micci (R-Fr., Colorado Springs, Colo.) was the top rusher with 13 carries for 62 yards.
The ThunderWolves totaled 286 yards of offense, but after only mustering one first down in the first frame, compiled 15 total in the game.
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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.