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ThunderWolves look for third straight undefeated regular season

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Photo courtesy of pueblochieftain.mycapture.com
Wide receiver Paul Browning has 45 receptions, 916 yards and nine touchdowns this season. Photo courtesy of pueblochieftain.mycapture.com

Nick Jurney

With one more victory, head coach John Wristen and the Colorado State University-Pueblo ThunderWolves can further secure their place in Division II football history. 

A win on Saturday against the Western State Mountaineers would secure a third consecutive 11-0 season for the ThunderWolves, which would mark only the second time ever in Division II that a team has accomplished such (the first since Grand Valley State racked up four consecutive 11-0 seasons from 2004-09).

The ThunderWolves can also win their 37th consecutive regular season game on Saturday, which would tie the second-longest regular season win streak in Division II. The longest streak is held again by Grand Valley State at 48 games.

“I’m not into all the record books or any of that,” Wristen said. “Maybe 20 years from now I will be, but right now I’m focused on getting our kids ready to give it their all, play for each other, and beat Western State by one.

The Mountaineers are another Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference team that has had a tough season, boasting only two wins on the season compared to seven losses.

One of the bright spots of the year has been freshman running back Austin Ekeler, who has already racked up over 1,000 yards on the ground.

“(Western State) remind me a lot of us when we first started up,” Wristen said. “They play really hard, they don’t beat themselves, and the kids are out there having fun. I have a lot of respect and am nervous about that.”

The ThunderWolves, on the other hand, have a lot to play for. With a third consecutive RMAC title, a first-round bye, and a home playoff game now in their grasp, the last thing they want to happen is to be unprepared.

“Ultimately, it’s just about trying to win each week,” junior receiver Paul Browning said. “Nothing is promised here in college football, so you have to just focus on each game in front of you.”

Browning has a chance to make his own history this week and in the playoffs. With 45 receptions, 916 yards and nine touchdowns, Browning is in a position to break school records in each of those three categories.

Browning needs only nine receptions, 78 yards and two touchdowns to tie the all-time CSU-Pueblo marks.

“That has to do with a lot of things,” Browning said of his success this season. “Our offensive coordinator is a genius, our offensive line has been able to exceed expectations, and (Chris) Bonner can really sling the ball around.”

Bonner has already surpassed the school record for passing touchdowns with 28 and can accomplish the school’s second 3,000-yard season with just 193 yards (school record is 3,011 set by Ross Dausin).

With Bonner’s success comes recognition, as Thursday he was named one of 28 national candidates for the Harlon Hill Award, Division II’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.

Browning, Bonner and company will kick off against Western State at 2 p.m. on Saturday, and contingent upon a win, there will be an RMAC trophy presentation immediately following.