CSU-Pueblo’s defense outdueled one of the top defensive units in the nation in a 34-6 victory against Colorado Mesa Saturday night.
Despite surrendering three turnovers offensively, the ThunderWolves were willing and able to make plays on defense from the start. Stephen Dickens led the way with a forced a Maverick fumble on the first play from scrimmage to set up a ThunderWolves’ touchdown less than two minutes into the game.
Shortly after, following a blocked punt by Colorado Mesa, the ThunderWolves’ defense held the Mavericks to virtually nothing and disrupted a field goal attempt, which kept the Mavericks off the board and ultimately set the tone for the game.
“Our defense had a great plan,” said head coach John Wristen. “I’m just really proud because we had about eight or nine guys attacking the ball every play.”
Dickens continued to make plays later in the first quarter, stripping a Colorado Mesa receiver of the ball that ultimately landed into the arms of Nick Henderson for an interception, giving the ThunderWolves advantageous field position for the second time early in the game.
“That’s part of Pack football,” Wristen said. “That’s the way Pack football is played.”
The ThunderWolves’ offense saw its fair share of struggles early on, particularly in the passing game, though hometown star Josh Sandoval was able to put his name into the CSU-Pueblo record book for most receptions all-time midway through the second quarter.
“I was aware of it today,” Sandoval said. “It’s a great honor, but I really wasn’t trying to break it. I was just out here trying to do my job.”
Chris Bonner uncharacteristically threw three interceptions in the game, compared to just one touchdown to tight end DaVaughn Thornton.
The story offensively for the ThunderWolves came from the quick and powerful rush attack led by Chris Ashe. Ashe finished with 170 yards and two touchdowns on the night, while emerging weapon Darius Millines contributed 99 yards and a touchdown out of the tricky wildcat formation.
Millines has been a huge part of the ThunderWolves’ offense of late, and when asked if he will continue to see extended action, Wristen had only one thing to say:
“What do you think?”
The victory extended the ThunderWolves streaks of consecutive regular season wins and consecutive Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference wins to 35 and 29, respectively, both of which are RMAC records.
With only two games remaining in the regular season, the ThunderWolves essentially control their own destiny heading towards the playoffs.
CSU-Pueblo can remain in the top spot of the regional rankings with two more wins and head into the playoffs with a first round bye and the prospect of having at least one home playoff game.