It’s not often one can say a loss is a statement game for a football program, but the ThunderWolves proved Saturday in a narrow 21-14 overtime loss to Colorado Mines they are not to be regarded as a typical first-year program.
The ThunderWolves fought to the very last snap, casually sloughing off a high-octane Mines offense with a bend-but-don’t-break defense, and countering with an offense that seemed to find its identity with two new faces, quarterback Joe Vigil (RFr., Littleton, Colo.) and receiver Aromous Robinson (Jr., Lakewood, Colo.).
Vigil, who was elevated to the starting quarterback following an injury to starter Bobby Washington (So., Colorado Springs, Colo.), stepped in and led the ThunderWolves from the get-go. The 5-foot-8-inch, speedy signal caller was accurate through the air. He completed 22-for-34 for 199 yards, tossed two touchdowns and threw no interceptions. His 22 completions in a single game were a school record.
Also joining Vigil in the lineup was Robinson who emerged quickly as the go-to receiver for Vigil. Robinson was only declared eligible to play Friday after finally working out a credit transfer from his junior college, Western Arizona.
It wasn’t any more evident than in the fourth quarter. While trailing 14-7 with just 28 seconds remaining, Vigil connected with Robinson for a 35-yard touchdown that tied the game at 14. The play forced overtime and put momentum squarely in the hands of the ThunderWolves.
Mines showed an inability to score touchdowns in the red zone all game long. In the overtime period, though, they punched the ball in for a touchdown on a fourth-and-goal try from the ThunderWolf one-yard-line. The touchdown followed three straight plays in which the Orediggers were stuffed at the goal-line.
The ThunderWolves weren’t as lucky in the overtime period, driving down to the 8-yard-line before Mines deflected two consecutive Vigil passes to escape with a win.
Mines’ offensive performance was led by quarterback David Pesek going 31-44 while passing for 332 yards.
The Pack defense registered six sacks including two by Lee Meisner (Fr., Sterling, Colo.). Jerome Page (Fr., Aurora, Colo.) and Brandon Williams (Jr., Avondale, Ariz.) each had 12 tackles
But don’t tell CSU-Pueblo head coach John Wristen that Saturday’s loss was a moral victory – the ThunderWolves did have chances to pull off the upset, Wristen said.
“I’m not in to moral victories,” Wristen said. “We’re in it to win it.”
“The defense had an outstanding effort, and everybody did a great job, but we still came up short in a game we could have won.”
The loss drops the Pack to 2-2 on the season and 1-2 in RMAC play while Mines improves to 4-1 overall and 3-0 in RMAC play.
The ThunderWolves will continue the “murderer’s row” portion of their schedule as they welcome Nebraska-Kearney to the Neta and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl Saturday before travelling to Grand Junction for a showdown with Mesa State.