No. 12 ThunderWolves welcome No. 16 Orediggers Thursday in season opener

PUEBLO, Colo. (August 30, 2017) - The No. 12 Colorado State University-Pueblo football team entertains No. 16 Colorado School of Mines in the season and Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference opener Thursday, Aug. 31 at 6 p.m. at the Net and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl. The game is a RED OUT and fans are encouraged to wear red to #BackthePack.

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CSU-PUEBLO GAME NOTES

TICKETS

THE GAME 

• The ThunderWolves are ranked No. 12 in the AFCA Preseason Coaches' Poll, while the Orediggers are No. 16. CSU-Pueblo was ranked No. 1 in the RMAC Preseason Coaches' Poll, while Colorado Mines was third.

• The two teams shared the RMAC Championship last season in a three-way tie with Colorado Mesa.

• The Pack were on a five-game winning streak against CSM until last season's 57-21 setback in Golden.

• All-time, the ThunderWolves lead the series 17-9, which includes a 49-21 home victory in 2015.

• The Pack are 8-1 in season openers, home openers and RMAC openers since the restart. The losses in all three categories came last season when the ThunderWolves fell in the season and RMAC opener to CSM and followed that with a loss to West Texas A&M in the home opener.   

SCOUTING THE PACK 

• The ThunderWolves are coming off an 8-3 season with an 8-2 RMAC record that secured a share of the team's fifth league title in the last six years.

• The Pack return nine offensive starters, which includes four offensive lineman that have combined for 86 career starts. 

• CSU-Pueblo has five defensive starters returning on a squad that finished the 2016 season allowing 14 points or less in the final six games (all victories). The Pack finished 11th in NCAA Division II in scoring defense with 17.4 points allowed per game.  

• The ThunderWolves enter the season as the second winningest team of the decade in NCAA Division II.

SCOUTING COLORADO MINES

• The Orediggers also recorded share of the RMAC Championship and won their first round game in the NCAA Playoffs.

• Colorado Mines led the nation in total offense and were second in scoring offense and passing offense last season. A major part of that was Harlon HIll winning QB Justin Dvorak, who graduated last season.

• The Mines defense totaled 18 interceptions to finish 20th nationally, but see a lot of turnover among the starting 11.

THE POLLS 

• CSU-Pueblo wasn't ranked at the end of a season for the first time since 2012 last year. The Pack enter the 2017 ranked No. 12 in both the AFCA and D2Football.com polls.

• The Pack ranked in the AFCA top 25 for 66 consecutive polls ranging from Sept. 5, 2011 (21st) to Sept. 5, 2016 (19th).

• The ThunderWolves ranked in the top 10 nationally for a NCAA Division II-best 37 straight weeks from Oct. 17, 2011 (eighth) to Oct. 6, 2014 (second).

TEAM NOTES

• Since reinstating the program in 2008, the ThunderWolves are 46-11 (.807) at the ThunderBowl.

• CSU-Pueblo owns a 15-6 (10-4 at home) record versus ranked opponents (Division II) since 2011. That includes a 5-1 record against the nation's top 10. The Pack had won 10 straight against nationally-ranked opponents (6-0 in 2014 and 4-1 in 2015) before the playoff loss to Grand Valley State. Ranking history since 2011 page 3

• Last season the Pack lead their opponents 132-63 in the second quarter.

• CSU-Pueblo accumulated eight drives of 80 or more yards. 

• The Pack have a 65-7 record since 2008 when scoring first, but lost twice in 2016 when placing the first points on the board. Five wins last season came when the opponent scored first.

CSU-PUEBLO POSITION NOTABLES

OFFENSE

• Running back Bernard McDondle returns to the lineup after playing in just five games last season where he still led the team with 759 rushing yards. McDondle recorded 8.9 yards per attempt in 2016

• McDondle owns 12 100-plus yard games in his career (four games last season), which includes a career-high 247 yards at Adams State (Oct. 8, 2016).

• Even without their top back, the Pack ranked 35th in NCAA Division II in rushing with 195.8 yards per game. 

• ast season the Pack offense scored on 87.5 percent of their red zone chances to rank second in the league and 18th nationally. 

• Junior Rex Dausin earned his first start Sept. 17, 2016 and threw 16-for-21, a 63.3 completion percentage. He finished with a 60.5 percentage, which was 49th nationally and fifth in the RMAC. 

• The ThunderWolves finished the 2016 season 12th nationally in least tackles for loss allowed with 4.36 per game. CSU-Pueblo returns four starting offensive linemen and its top tight end and fullback crew.

DEFENSE

• The Pack have been one of the most stingiest and unforgiving defenses in the nation the past five seasons. Since 2011, the ThunderWolves have finished the season in the top 22 nationally in scoring defense, which includes leading the country in 2011 and 2014. CSU-Pueblo has also ranked in the top 21 in turnover ratio (or turnovers gained) in all but one season in that span with the nation's best mark in 2014. 

• The 2016 scoring defense was 11th nationally and second best in the RMAC with 17.4 points allowed per game.

• CSU-Pueblo gained 21 turnovers last season (14 interceptions, seven fumble recoveries) and turned them into 81 points.

• The ThunderWolves had a pick six in back-to-back games (Sept. 17 and 24) and totalled four in 2016 (Oct. 8 and Nov. 12). Since 2008, the Pack have totaled 28 interception returns for a touchdown. The most in a season is five by the 2010 and 2014 squads. The Pack finished 10th in NCAA Division II in defensive TD's with five last season.

• Junior Darius Williams has returned an interception for a score in his first two seasons.

• CSU-Pueblo's rushing defense was established on game one of the program re-boot in 2008. The Pack allowed 13 yards rushing against Oklahoma Panhandle State (Sept. 8, 2008) and since have held their opponent to less than 50 yards rushing on 20 more occasions. Last season, the ThunderWolves held Adams State (Oct. 8) to just 15 yards this season and Black Hills State (Oct. 22) to only 35 yards. 

• Six times since 2008 the ThunderWolves have allowed 10 or less rushing yards, with the record standing at -4 rushing yards at New Mexico Highlands Nov. 9, 2013.

• CSU-Pueblo led the league and finished seventh nationally last season after allowing 84.1 yards on the ground.

• The Pack led the conference in total defense (19th nationally), as they allowed 305.9 yards per game. 

• Junior inside linebacker Brandon Payer finished tied for second in the conference in most tackles with 103 (40 solo). His 10.5 tackles for loss (-19 yards) is tied for seventh, while his three forced fumbles tied for second in the league. 

• Williams recorded 14 passes defended to rank tied for third in the conference.

• Emery Taylor's three interceptions ranked tied for fifth most in the league.

SPECIAL TEAMS   

• CSU-Pueblo ranked third in the RMAC in kickoff returns with 21.7 yards per return, while the kick return defense was fifth after allowing 19.5 yards per return. 

• The ThunderWolves compiled the third most yards per punt return in the RMAC last season with 15.1 yards, which ranked 12th nationally. 

• The Pack were third n the RMAC with four blocked kicks, two of them were punts, which ranked them tied for first in the league and 24th nationally.  

#PACKPROS: CSU-Pueblo has three former players in the NFL right now. Ryan Jensen (2009-12) enters his fifth season with the Baltimore Ravens and Mike Pennel (2013) is in his fourth overall season and first with the New York Jets. Morgan Fox (2012-15) moved from the practice squad to active roster last season and enters year two with the Los Angeles Rams. The Pack also have a player in the Canadian Football League (CFL), as Darius Allen (2011-14) is on the practice squad for the Edmonton Esks. Finally, Paul Browning (2010-14) finished his second season in the Arena Football League (AFL) in July with the Baltimore Brigade. Former quarterback Chris Bonner (2013-14) finished his first season in the AFL with the Tampa Bay Storm. 

VS. RANKED SQUADS: CSU-Pueblo owns a 15-6 (10-4 at home) record versus ranked opponents (Division II) since 2011. The ThunderWolves went 6-0 versus the nation's top 25 in 2014 and also added a 47-21 win against Sam Houston State (No. 15) to record the team's first-ever victory against a ranked FCS team. The Pack went 4-1 against ranked opponents in 2015 and had won 10 straight against the nation's best before the loss to Grand Valley State.

STREAKS: CSU-Pueblo posted three straight 11-0 seasons entering 2014 and was just one of two teams in NCAA Division II history to accomplish the feat. After starting 5-0 in 2014, the Pack owned 42 straight regular season victories, which was the second-longest in NCAA Division II history, behind only Grand Valley State, which posted 48 straight wins from 2004-09. The streak ended Oct. 11 in a 23-22 road loss at Fort Lewis.

The Pack recorded 28 consecutive regular season home victories from a 66-0 win against New Mexico Highlands Oct. 30, 2010 to a 51-20 win against Colorado Mesa Nov. 7, 2015. 

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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.