Big plays allow ThunderWolves to run to 56-14 victory in home and season opener

Big plays allow ThunderWolves to run to 56-14 victory in home and season opener

PUEBLO, Colo. (September 1, 2018) - The No. 14 Colorado State University-Pueblo opened the 2018 season with a decisive 56-14 victory against Dixie State University Saturday in a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference contest at the Neta and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl.

The ThunderWolves totaled six scoring plays of 65 yards or more in the victory. The Pack (1-0, 1-0 RMAC) dominated the run game with 496 yards and six touchdowns, while only allowing 68 yards on the ground and no scores. The ThunderWolves finished the game with three less rush attempts than the Trailblazers (0-1, 0-1 RMAC) to post 11.3 yards per carry and allow just 1.4 yards per rush. CSU-Pueblo finished the game with 573 total offensive yards and allowed just 253, while Dixie State ran 31 more plays.

Three members of the Pack finished with 94 or more yards rushing, guided by junior Austin Micci (Colorado Springs, Colo.), as he gathered 177 yards and three touchdowns on seven carries. He ripped off two 80-yard touchdown runs and averaged 25.3 yards per carry. Senior Marché Dennard (Phoenix, Ariz.) got his work in during the first half and only needed five carries to post 132 yards and two scores (19- and 65-yard runs). After playing in just one game last year due to injury, senior Bernard McDondle (Littleton, Colo.) collected 94 yards and score that came from 71 yards from the blue paint of the south end zone. Even more impressive is the fact the ThunderWolves lost all five starting offensive linemen to graduation last year and had a fresh five up front. 

With the run game established early, quarterback Brandon Edwards (Sr., Bothell, Wash.) was able to get in on the big play bonanza with a 68-yard connection with senior Cole Forsgren (Gilbert, Ariz.) during a 21-point second quarter. Edwards finished the game going an efficient 4-for-5 with 77 yards and the score. 

The Pack defense picked up right where it left off last season and gathered three interceptions and recovered a fumble. Up front, the ThunderWolves totaled seven sacks with 2.5 (-16 yards) coming from senior defensive end Michael Wristen (Broomfield, Colo.). Wristen was one of six players to get in on a sack and was also one of six players to collect six or more tackles. He finished with a team-high 3.0 tackles for loss (-18 yards), while senior linebacker Brandon Payer (Pine, Colo.) led the squad with nine tackles (six solo) and 1.5 tackles for loss (-5 yards). 

Special teams was not to be outdone, as the Pack scored on a blocked field goal attempt by DSU. Six-foot-four junior Tanner Draper (S, Amarillo, Texas) got his paws on a 27-yard field goal attempt, which was scooped up by junior James Maxie (LB, Parker, Colo.). As Maxie was being taken to the ground, he flipped the ball to senior Darius Williams (CB, Gilbert, Ariz.), who raced 65 yards to the end zone. The play set the tone for the Pack in the middle of the first quarter and started a 28-6 run during the next 16 minutes of game clock.

Sophomore kicker Mitchell Carter (Colorado Springs, Colo.) was a perfect 8-for-8 on extra points and senior punter Tanner Cuda (Castle Pines, Colo.) averaged 49.6 yards on five attempts. Cuda totaled 248 yards with a long of 69 yards and placed three punts inside the 20-yard line.

After the defense forced Dixie State off the field on its first possession, Dennard carried the ball four times during the Pack's opening drive and gathered 67 yards, which culminated with a 19-yard score. The first touchdown of the season came just 4:19 into the 2018 campaign. 

The blocked field goal returned for a touchdown made it 14-0 in the first and that is where is stood until five minutes into the second quarter when Dennard struck again with a 65-yard rush to the end zone. Just 20 seconds after the pick six by the Trailblazers, McDondle busted off a 71-yard touchdown, his first rushing score since Oct. 8, 2016. The Edwards-Forsgren connection move the needle to 35-6 before DSU scored in the final minute of the first half to trail 35-12 at the break. 

It was Micci madness in the second half, as he racked up all 177 yards and three scores in the second half. His first 80-yarder came just 14 seconds into the third quarter, then he struck again on a five yard run with 8:36 remaining in the third. Finally, with 1:06 showing on the third quarter clock, he knocked off another 80-yard touchdown score, which ended the scoring for the game at 56-14. 

The ThunderWolves will next host Chadron State College, Sept. 8 at 6 p.m. at the Neta and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl. 

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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