PUEBLO, Colo. (Oct. 3, 2018) - The No. 15 Colorado State University-Pueblo football program will host New Mexico Highlands University Saturday, Oct. 6 for a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference contest at the Neta & Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl. The contest is set to begin at 6 p.m. and is a Think Pink Game, as fans are encouraged to wear pink to support breast cancer awareness and research.
The game is also Pueblo YMCA Day. Youth can wear their YMCA jerseys to get in free (ThunderHill ticket only), while all members of the YMCA will receive a $2 discount off their adult general admission ticket when showing their YMCA membership card.
• A win tonight would mark Head Coach John Wristen's 100th career victory as a member of the ThunderWolves. He owns a 99-24 all-time record. The .805 percentage ranks second among active NCAA Division II coaches.
• The Pack rank No. 15 in the AFCA poll after the win and own a 4-1 overall record and a 3-1 mark in RMAC play.
• CSU-Pueblo is 18-5 all-time against New Mexico Highlands and are riding a 13-game win streak dating back to 1982.
• In the 10 wins since the return in 2008, five have come at home, and in those five games the Pack have outscored NMHU 223-58.
• The ThunderWolves defeated the Cowboys 61-6 in the last home game in 2016, which wasn't even the most points they had scored against NMHU, as the Pack won 66-0 in 2010. Last season in Las Vegas, N.M., CSU-Pueblo was victorious 56-13.
SCOUTING THE PACK
• CSU-Pueblo improved to 11-0 on Homecoming since the return of football in 2008 when it recorded a 41-14 victory against South Dakota Mines.
• The Pack posted a 17-7 lead through the first quarter and held a 31-7 advantage at the half to run to the big victory. Statistically, the two teams were close, but the bend-don't-break defense kept the Hardrockers (2-3, 1-3 RMAC) off the scoreboard. CSU-Pueblo totaled three turnovers, with two coming on the home team's side of the field.
• The CSU-Pueblo offense scored on its first five possessions of the game and finished with a balanced attack. The Pack compiled 426 yards with 214 on the ground and 212 yards • through the air. Ten different players had a carry and there were seven players with a reception.
• The ThunderWolves defense held South Dakota Mines to 14 points, as the Hardrockers entered the game 11th nationally in points per game with 42.
• The ThunderWolves enter the game 3rd in Division II in turnovers gained with 15 (8 interceptions and 7 fumbles recovered). The Pack rank 11th in rushing with 264.4 yards per game.
• CSU-Pueblo sits 7th nationally in tackles for loss with 9.8 TFL per game, while senior ILB Brandon Payer leads the RMAC and sits 2nd in DII in the category with 2.5 TFL per game.
• The Pack are 12th in red zone defense (60%), are 16th nationally in passing efficiency defense (98.02) and are 20th in total defense and are allowing 277.8 yards per game.
SCOUTING NEW MEXICO HIGHLANDS
• The Cowboys are 2-3 overall with a 2-2 record in the RMAC. New Mexico Highlands lost last week 33-30 at Texas A&M-Kingsville. NMHU trailed 16-3 after the first, but were down just six at the half, 23-17. A seven-play, 99-yard drive to the end zone that finished early in the fourth quarter handed the road team a 30-26 lead. With 4:23 remaining, the Javelinas scored on a 30-yard pass play to take a 33-30 lead that would hold to the end.
• New Mexico Highlands has been a disciplined group this season and rank 2nd in the RMAC in least penalties with 30 through five games. The Cowboys have taken care of the ball and rank 3rd in the league in least amount of turnovers with six and are second in least sacks allowed (1.2 spg).
• NMHU has found success on special teams and rank 6th nationally with 27.4 ypr and are 25th in DII in punt return defense with 3.5 ypr allowed.
• Devon Henderson leads the RMAC and ranks 3rd nationally in combined kick return yardage with 521. He is 11th in DII in all-purpose yards with 165.2 yards per game.
• On defense, Willie Morris leads the RMAC and sits 7th nationally in passes defended with 10.
• Running back Dione Alston ranks third in the RMAC in rushing yards with 508 (101.6 ypg), while his 6.9 yards per carry is an RMAC-best and sits 10th nationally.
• CSU-Pueblo entered 2018 ranked No. 14 in the AFCA and No. 13 D2Football.com polls. The Pack were as high as No. 9 in both polls and currently rank No. 15 in the AFCA and No. 14 in D2Football.com rankings.
• 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 (53-0) and when allowing 10 points or less (39-0).
• Since 2008, the ThunderWolves are 54-11 (.831) at the ThunderBowl.
• The ThunderWolves have eight scoring plays of 65-yards or more and own seven scoring drives of 75 yards or more.
• The ThunderWolves have scored first in four of the first five games this season (3-1) and since 2008 own a 76-9 record when scoring first.
• The defense hadn't allowed a fourth quarter score in the previous seven regular season games until giving up a touchdown at Mines. In the last 14 regular season games the team has allowed just 27 points in the final frame, dating back to Sept. 16, 2017.
CSU-PUEBLO POSITION NOTABLES
• 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 264.4 yards rushing per game, the ThunderWolves rank No. 11 in NCAA Division II.
• The Pack are racking up the yards by committee with three players who own 215 or more yards. Marché Dennard owns 375 yards on 48 carries with five touchdowns. Austin Micci has carried the load the last game and a half due to the injuries of Dennard and Bernard McDondle. Micci adds 373 yards (74.6 ypg) and five touchdowns. Micci sits second in the conference and 15th nationally with 6.7 yards per carry. Finally, in three games, McDondle has 215 yards rushing with three touchdowns and 74 yards receiving with a score.
• RECORD WATCH: Bernard McDondle has 2,620 career rushing yards to rank 4th all-time at CSU-Pueblo. He is 921 yards shy of third.
• The five rushing touchdowns by Micci and Dennard rank tied for 6th in the RMAC. Micci also has a receiving score to rank second on the team with 36 points responsible for.
• With 35.0 points per game, the ThunderWolves are fifth in the conference in scoring.
• Starting QB Brandon Edwards established a career high with 315 yards passing against Mines. He recorded one touchdown in the loss.
• He has produced an efficiency rating of 133.4, has thrown 51-for-90 (56.7%) for 728 yards and three touchdowns. He also has a rushing touchdown. Two of his touchdown strikes went for 68 yards, while the other was a 48 yard score. His one interception in 90 attempts was a desperation throw at the end of the Mines loss.
• CSU-Pueblo's 13.6 passing yards per completion is fourth in the RMAC. Edwards is gathering 14.3 yards per completed pass to sit fifth in the league.
• The Pack have thrown just two interceptions this season and rank second in the league and 11th nationally in least passes intercepted.
• WR Cole Forsgren had a career game at Mines with eight receptions for 130 yards. He leads the team with 12 receptions for 215 yards (next has 125) and a score.
• 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 are 11th nationally in rushing. CSU-Pueblo is 4th in the league in sacks allowed (2.0).
• 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.
• By allowing 277.8 yards per game the ThunderWolves lead the RMAC and rank 20th nationally in total defense.
• CSU-Pueblo hasn't hesitated in creating turnovers and with eight interceptions (three against Dixie State) and seven fumbles recovered (four against Texas A&M-Commerce) the Pack rank 3rd nationally in turnovers gained. The fumbles recovered number is 6th nationally, while the interception total sits 19th.
• Since 2008, the Pack have totaled 34 interception returns for a touchdown. The most in a season is five by the 2010, 2014 and 2017 squads. ILB Kyle Rosenbrock recorded a pick six on the second play at Mines. He went 26 yards to the house.
• Rosenbrock also has two fumble recoveries to tie for the conference lead rank T-3rd in DII.
• With 17.8 points per game allowed the ThunderWolves are 1st in the league and 28th in DII.
• 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 recorded six interceptions last season. In 2018, he has three interceptions (vs CSC, at TAMUC, vs SDM&T) and a team-high six pass break-ups. With nine passes defended (1.8 per game), Tayor ranks 12th nationally (2nd in RMAC).
• RECORD WATCH: Williams has 13 career interceptions to rank 4th all-time at CSU-Pueblo. He is two picks from tying for 2nd. Stephan Dickens (2010-14) has the record with 19. Taylor has 12 career interceptions to sit tied for fifth.
• 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 is 2nd in the RMAC with 110 yards per game allowed.
• The Pack recorded seven sacks against DSU and compiled 15 tackles for loss. CSU-Pueblo ranks 7th nationally in tackles for loss (49, 9.8 TFLpg) and 35th in sacks (13, 2.6 spg).
• 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.
• This season, Payer leads the RMAC with 54 tackles (24 solo) and adds 12.5 tackles for loss (-21 yards) that also ranks 1st in the RMAC. With 10.8 tackles per game he sits 21st nationally and the 2.5 tackles for loss per game is good for 2nd in Division II.
• RECORD WATCH: Payer has 331 tackles in his career, which is 18 shy of the modern era program record of 349 by Lee Meisner (2008-11). In all the program's history, Payer is 4th. With 45.5 career tackles for loss, the senior ranks third all-time behind Darius Allen's (2011-14) 59.0 and Morgan Fox's (2012-15) 49.5 tackles for loss.
• DE Michael Wristen finished with 2.5 sacks (-16 yards) against Dixie State and leads the team in the category with 4.0 (-22 yards), which is good for T-2nd in the RMAC. He totaled 3.5 sacks in all of 2017.
• CSU-Pueblo is 1st in league and 12th in DII in red zone defense. The ThunderWolves have allowed six scores (4 TDs, 2 FGs) in the red zone in 10 opponent attempts (60%).
• The Pack are 2nd in the RMAC in 3rd down conversion defense, as they allow their opponents to convert 30.5 percent of the time.
• The ThunderWolves lead the league in passing efficiency defense (98.0), which is good for 16th nationally, and in passing yards allowed (167.8).
• 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 FG 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 10th in Division II. On the flip side, CSU-Pueblo hasn't allowed a block in the first five games.
• K Mitchell Carter was 55-for-56 on extra points in his first season with the Pack and is 22-for-2 this season. He is 7-for-10 on field goal attempts. Carter leads the RMAC in field goals made, while his 1.4 FG per game is 13th nationally. He is 7-for-8 from 39 yards and in with his long coming from 38 yards at Texas A&M-Commerce.
• With 43 points, Carter is first among RMAC kickers and is 4th in the conference (22nd nationally) in scoring.
• The ThunderWolves rank 3rd in the RMAC and 26th in Division II in net punting (37.9 yards), while P Tanner Cuda's 43.8 yards per punt ranks 12th nationally and third in the league.
• Cuda has booted seven punts more than 50 yards with his long settling at 70 yards. He has landed 13 punts inside the 20 and recorded four touchbacks.
• CSU-Pueblo ranks 2nd in the league in kickoff return defense, as it allows 18.4 yards per return.
• The Pack are 2nd in the RMAC and rank 17th nationally in punt returns with 15.2 yards per return.
• WR Kevin Ribarich leads the RMAC and ranks 13th in the nation with 14.7 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 18-7 (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. The Pack recorded the program's second win against a team ranked No. 1 in the AFCA poll when it posted a 23-13 road win at Texas A&M-Commerce Sept. 22. The first time came when CSU-Pueblo won the 2014 NCAA Division II National Championship by the score of 13-0 against Minnesota State University, Mankato.
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.