PUEBLO, Colo. (September 14, 2018) - The Colorado State University-Pueblo football team ranks No. 9 in both national polls as they enter into a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference battle at Colorado School of Mines Saturday in Golden, Colorado. Game time is set for 12 p.m. at Marv Kay Stadium.
• Both teams are off to a 2-0 start, as the ThunderWolves posted a 34-13 home win against Chadron State and the Orediggers went on the road and defeated Black Hills State 42-20.
• The ThunderWolves were picked to finish first in the RMAC preseason poll and currently rank No. 9 in both the AFCA and the D2Football.com polls. Mines is receiving votes and is the first team outside the top 25 of the AFCA poll.
• The Orediggers were selected to finish third in the league coaches' poll after going 7-4 overall and 7-3 in RMAC play a season ago.
• Neither team has allowed a point in the first or fourth quarters this season.
• The ThunderWolves own an 18-9 all-time record against Mines and are 6-4 since the re-boot in 2008. The Orediggers got the best of the Pack in the first three meetings since 2008, but CSU-Pueblo was able to string five straight victories before losing in Golden 57-21 in 2016.
• Last season the ThunderWolves posted a 38-7 home victory against Mines. With the game tied 7-7 with 6:05 remaining in the second quarter, CSU-Pueblo scored twice in the final 2:23 of the half to open a 21-7 lead at the break. The two touchdowns by Austin Micci (one pass from Brandon Edwards and one run) started a run of 31 unanswered points to claim the victory.
• Since the first meeting in 1964, CSU-Pueblo is 6-8 on the road against Mines, which includes losses in 2008 (21-14 OT), 2010 (19-16) and 2016 (57-21).
SCOUTING THE PACK
• The run game continued to dominate in the week two victory, as the Pack gathered 285 yards on the ground and currently have an NCAA Division II-best 390.5 rushing yards per game.
• CSU-Pueblo scored four rushing touchdowns with three from Marché Dennard. The senior totaled 147 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries to average 11.3 yards per rush. His long came on a second quarter 70-yard run to the end zone. He also scored from four and 22 yards out.
• Dennard ranks tied for second in NCAA Division II with five touchdowns, while his 279 yards is fifth.
• The Pack defense allowed two big plays and the Eagles capitalized with a 59-yard touchdown strike in the second quarter and a 47-yard run in the third frame. The Pack only allowed 118 yards rushing with nearly half that coming on the one play.
• After totalling seven sacks in the opener, the ThunderWolves didn't tally a quarterback takedown agianst the Eagles. That didn't mean the team wasn't getting into the CSC backfield, as the home squad recorded eight tackles for loss that resulted in a loss of 16 yards.
• ILB Brandon Payer grabbed half of those tackles for loss (4.0, -7 yards) and added a team-high 12 tackles (five solo).
• Payer ranks tied for fifth in Division II with 5.5 tackles for loss this season, while the team is tied for sixth nationally with 23.
• The defense hasn't allowed a fourth quarter score in the last seven regular season games and just 10 points in the last 11 regular games (all against Adams State Oct. 7), dating back to Sept. 16, 2017.
• The Pack had two touchdowns on special teams last season and already have one in 2018 with the blocked field goal attempt returned for a score against DSU.
• Sophomore K Mitchell Carter missed one extra point last year and so far is a perfect 12-for-12 in 2018. He is 2-for-2 on field goal attempts.
• Mines is 2-0 after a 49-7 home win against Adams State and a 42-20 road victory at Black Hills State. With 45.5 points per game the Orediggers are eighth in NCAA Division II, while the 13.5 points per game allowed is tied with CSU-Pueblo for the conference lead and ranks 23rd nationally.
• Mines has the fourth best passing offense in the nation with 371.5 yards per game. Leading the way is redshirt-senior transfer (Indiana State) Isaac Harker, who ranks tied for first nationally with eight touchdown passes, third in passing yards with 742 and fourth in passing yards per game with 371.0. He is first in DII in points responsible for with 60 (8 passing, 2 rushing). His favorite target is preseason All-American Brody Oliver, who leads NCAA Division II in receiving yards (372), receiving yards per game (186.0) and receiving touchdowns (7). The O-Line is also keeping Harker clean, as Mines ranks 10th nationally in sacks allowed (0.5 per game).
• Oh, and RB Cameron Mayberry has 113 rushing yards per game to sit 25 in DII, while his three rushing touchdowns ranks T-16th.
• The defense has been strong too with just 94 yards rushing allowed per game to rank 25th nationally. The Orediggers are allowing 248 yards per game to rank 18th nationally and first in the RMAC.
• Three players are tied for the tackle lead with 12 through two games. S Geoff Keating has 12 tackles (3 solo) with a sack, an interception and two break-ups.
• CSU-Pueblo entered the 2018 ranked No. 14 in the AFCA and No. 13 D2Football.com polls. The Pack are No. 9 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).
• Since 2008, CSU-Pueblo is undefeated when scoring 35 or more points (52-0) and when allowing 10 points or less (39-0).
• Since 2008, the ThunderWolves are 53-11 (.828) at the ThunderBowl.
• The ThunderWolves already have seven scoring plays of 65-yards or more and own four scoring drives of 75 yards or more.
• The ThunderWolves have a 75-8 record since 2008 when scoring first (2-0 this season).
CSU-PUEBLO POSITION NOTABLES
• Last season, the Pack were 4th in the RMAC during the regular season in rushing offense with 191.5 yards per game. Against Dixie State, the ThunderWolves established a program record with 497 yards on the ground. The previous top three were: 481 against Westminster in 1977, 435 yards against Western New Mexico, Oct. 31, 2009 and last season's 405 rushing yards against New Mexico Highlands.
• With 390.5 yards rushing through two games, the ThunderWolves lead NCAA Division II.
• The Pack are racking up the yards by committee with three players who own 160 or more yards. Marché Dennard owns 279 yards on 18 carries with five touchdowns. He ranks T-2nd nationally in rushing touchdowns, 5th in rushing yards and 7th in rushing yards per game (139.5 ypg). Austin Micci is top 25 in all three of those categories and ranks 1st in Division II with 11.5 yards per carry (230 yards on 20 carries). He adds three touchdowns (16th), 230 yards (21st) and 115 yards per game (22nd). Finally, Bernard McDondle has 160 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries.
• With 45.0 points per game, the ThunderWolves are third in the conference and ninth nationally in scoring.
• Brandon Edwards has started both games at QB and has produced an efficient 10-of-13 (76.9%) for 143 yards, a touchdown and zero interceptions.
• Edwards connected on a 68-yard touchdown strike to WR Cole Forsgren against Dixie State (Sept. 1). Forsgren leads the team with four receptions for 85 yards.
• All five starting offensive linemen last season were seniors, but the new front didn't hesitate to step up and guided the rushing attack to a record 496 yards in game one.
• The Pack have been one of the most stingiest and unforgiving defenses in the nation the past eight 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 defense closed the 2017 regular season top 20 nationally in eight categories, red zone defense (3rd, 57.7%), interceptions (4th, 21), team passing efficiency defense (4th, 88.95), defensive touchdowns (7th, 5), scoring defense (10th, 14.3), total defense (10th, 273.5), turnovers gained (11th, 27) and passing yards allowed (18th, 164.6).
• CSU-Pueblo hasn't hesitate in creating turnovers and with four interceptions (three against Dixie State) the Pack rank ninth nationally. The five turnovers gained is 21s in DII.
• Since 2008, the Pack have totaled 33 interception returns for a touchdown. The most in a season is five by the 2010, 2014 and 2017 squads.
• With 13.5 points per game allowed the ThunderWolves are tied with Mines for the league lead and rank 23rd in the nation.
• CB Darius Williams doesn't have a pick yet, but has at least one pick six in each of his three seasons with the Pack and four in his career. His eight interceptions last season established a new program record, was a RMAC best and ranked T-2nd in NCAA Division II.
• Fellow starting CB Emery Taylor did have an interception against the Trailblazers after totaling six last season. He has a team-high two pass break-ups this season.
• 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.
• 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 was 1st in the league in the category last season and again is tops in the RMAC with 93.0 yards per game allowed (24th in Division II).
• The Pack recorded seven sacks against DSU and compiled 15 tackles for loss. CSU-Pueblo ranks sixth nationally with 11.5 tackles for loss this season and sits 20th in sacks (3.5 spg).
• DE Michael Wristen finished with 2.5 sacks (-16 yards) against Dixie State and leads the team (16th nationally with 1.25 spg) in the category. He totaled 3.5 sacks in all of 2017.
• ILB Brandon Payer finished last season with 110 tackles with 71 solo. His 71 solo efforts established a new program record and ranked 22nd nationally. He leads the team with 21 tackles (11 solo) with 5.5 tackles for loss (-12 yards) that ranks first in the RMAC and T-6th nationally.
• CSU-Pueblo is tied with three other teams for the DII lead in red zone defense. The ThunderWolves haven't allowed a score in the red zone in three opponent attempts.
• The Pack are second in the RMAC and 18th nationally in 3rd down conversion defense, as they allow their opponents to convert just a 22.9 percent of the time.
• The Pack had four blocked kicks last year and have already got their hands on a punt, an extra point attempt and a FG attempt, as Tanner Draper blocked a 27-yard attempt by Dixie State, which was recovered by James Maxie and returned by Darius Williams 68 yards for a touchdown. The three blocked kicks ties the Pack for the lead in Division II with Upper Iowa. On the flip side, CSU-Pueblo hasn't allowed a block in the first two games.
• K Mitchell Carter was 55-for-56 on extra points in his first season with the Pack and started this year 12-for-12 and 2-for-2 on field goal attempts.
• The ThunderWolves rank 7th nationally in net punting (42.2 yards) and 9th in punt return defense (-0.67 yards), while P Tanner Cuda's 45.2 yards per punt ranks 13th nationally.
• The Pack are second in the RMAC in punt returns with 11.57 yards per return. WR Brandon O'Donnell leads the RMAC and ranks 21st nationally with 15 yards per punt return.
#PACKPROS: CSU-Pueblo has three former players in the NFL right now. Ryan Jensen (2009-12) is in his sixth season and first with Tampa Bay after five with the Baltimore Ravens. After a breakout season where he started all 16 games at center for the Ravens, Jensen inked the largest contract for a center in NFL history. Mike Pennel (2013) is in his fifth overall season and second with the New York Jets. Morgan Fox (2012-15) moved from the practice squad to active roster in 2016 and was on the active roster all of the 2017 season with the Los Angeles Rams. Unfortunately, Fox suffered a knee injury during OTAs and will miss the 2018 season. Darius Allen (2011-14) is currently with the Canadian Football league's Edmonton Eskimos. Pennel, Fox and Allen all play on the defensive line.
VS. RANKED SQUADS: CSU-Pueblo owns a 17-7 (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.