No. 18 ThunderWolves stay on the road for RMAC test at South Dakota Mines

No. 18 ThunderWolves stay on the road for RMAC test at South Dakota Mines

PUEBLO, Colo. (Sept. 16, 2017) - The No. 18 Colorado State University-Pueblo football team continues their three-game road swing with a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference contest at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Sept. 16 at 6 p.m.

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CSU-PUEBLO GAME NOTES (1-1, 1-0 RMAC)
SOUTH DAKOTA MINES FOOTBALL PAGE (2-0, 1-0 RMAC)

THE GAME 

• The ThunderWolves are ranked No. 14/18 in the national polls. 

• The contest is just the second meeting between the two teams.

• Last season in Pueblo, the ThunderWolves won 37-10. After opening a 16-0 halftime lead, the Pack led 23-3 after the third before adding two scores in the fourth. Austin Micci rushed 18 times for 73 yards and score. CB Emery Taylor totaled two interceptions, which included an 85-yard INT return for a score. 

SCOUTING THE PACK 

• The ThunderWolves are coming off a loss to West Texas A&M, as WT upset the Pack with a 28-yard field goal with four seconds remaining to win 24-21.

• CSU-Pueblo has lost a week two game against WT in each of the past three seasons. 

• RB Austin Micci totaled three rushing touchdowns against WT and now owns four rushing scores this season to rank T-5th in Division II for rushing touchdowns. He added a receiving touchdown against Colorado Mines and with 30 points on the year, ranks tied for second in both total points scored and touchdowns.

• After allowing 267.0 points per game in the first two weeks, the ThunderWolves rank 19th in Division II in total defense.   

• The ThunderWolves are 8-for-8 in the red zone with seven touchdowns and a 26-yard field goal from the new kicker, R-Fr. Mitchell Carter. The Pack are tied with 31 other teams for the lead in NCAA Division II. Last season CSU-Pueblo finished 18th nationally in the category. 

SCOUTING SOUTH DAKOTA MINES

• The Hardrockers are 2-0 overall and 1-0 in RMAC play after a decisive 35-14 home win against Dixie State last week.

• The offense is averaging 38.5 points and 470.5 yards per game. SDSMT has averaged 259.5 yards passing and 211 yards rushing per game this early season.

• QB Jake Sullivan has thrown for 519 yards and four touchdowns with a 58.5 completion percentage. RB Kevin Thompson has averaged 116 yards per game and totals three rushing scores.

• The Hardrocker defense has four takeaways (two INT, two fumble) and is holding their opponents to 20.5 points per game.

• The defense has five players with 10 or more tackles in the first two games. 

• SD Mines was sixth in the RMAC preseason poll.

THE POLLS 

• CSU-Pueblo wasn't ranked at the end of a season for the first time since 2012 last year. The Pack entered the 2017 ranked No. 12 in both the AFCA and D2Football.com polls and are No. 14/18 this week.

• 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

• This season, the ThunderWolves will play six road games in six different states (Texas, South Dakota, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Nebraska).

• The Pack will travel roughly 2,470 miles in those six road games. 

• The Pack are winning the third quarter 14-0 this season. CSU-Pueblo is winning the first half 32-18.

• Since reinstating the program in 2008, the ThunderWolves are 47-11 (.810) at the ThunderBowl.

• CSU-Pueblo owns a 16-6 (11-4 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.

• Last season the Pack lead their opponents 132-63 in the second quarter. The second quarter is the team's most productive this season with 28 points.

• CSU-Pueblo accumulated eight drives of 80 or more yards in 2016. The Pack have totaled four 75-yard or more scoring drives this season.

• The Pack have a 66-8 record since 2008 when scoring first, but are 1-1 this season.

• Since 2008, CSU-Pueblo is undefeated when scoring 35 or more points (48-0) and when allowing 10 points or less (36-0).

CSU-PUEBLO POSITION NOTABLES

OFFENSE

• Sophomore Austin Micci has found the end zone five times this season, four rushing and one receiving. His five scores places him tied for 2nd nationally, while the four rushing touchdowns is tied for 5th in NCAA Division II.  

• In his first NCAA Division II start, junior QB Brandon Edwards went 13-for-19 (68.4%) for 152 yards and two touchdowns. His 69.8 completion percentage ranks first in the RMAC and 12th nationally. He is 19th in Division II in yards per pass attempt (8.66 ypa) and 49th in  passing efficiency (150.2%).

• The ThunderWolves finished the 2016 season 12th nationally in least tackles for loss allowed with 4.36 per game. CSU-Pueblo has five seniors on the offensive line this season and rank 36th nationally in the least tackles for loss allowed (5.0). 

• The Pack rank tied for first in NCAA Division II in red zone offense, as they are 8-for-8 this season, tied with 31 other teams. The Pack have scored seven touchdowns in those eight attempts. 

DEFENSE

• The Pack have been one of the most stingiest and unforgiving defenses in the nation the past seven 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 ranks 27th nationally and first in the league in scoring defense this season, as it allows 15.5 points per game.

• The Pack gained 21 turnovers last season (14 interceptions, seven fumble recoveries) and turned them into 81 points. The Pack have two interceptions in 2017 with seven points resulting in those picks.

• 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 ThunderWolves are third in the RMAC in rushing defense (113.5 ypg), but second in the RMAC in passing yards allowed (153.5 ypg).

• The Pack led the conference in total defense (19th nationally), as they allowed 305.9 yards per game. They are 19th this season through two games and are allowing 267 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) was tied for seventh, while his three forced fumbles tied for second in the league. This season, Payer has 20 tackles  with 15 solo to rank 19th nationally and first in the RMAC in solo tackles per game. 

• Williams recorded 14 passes defended to rank tied for third in the conference in 2016.

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

SPECIAL TEAMS   

• In 2016, 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 Pack haven't had many opportunities, as they have three kick returns and five punt returns totalling 68 yards.

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

• CSU-Pueblo blocked a punt in the win against Colorado Mines (Aug. 31).

• New kicker, R-Fr. Mitchell Carter is 1-for-1 on field goals and 8-for-8 on extra points.

#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 16-6 (11-4 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.