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ThunderWolves travel into unknown territory with record on the line

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Photo courtesy of gothunderwolves.com.
When CSU-Pueblo travels to Spearfish, S.D. for the first time in school history Saturday to take on Black Hills State University, it will be a matchup of two teams heading in opposite directions. Photo courtesy of gothunderwolves.com.

Nick Jurney

When CSU-Pueblo travels to Spearfish, S.D. for the first time in school history Saturday to take on Black Hills State University, it will be a matchup of two teams heading in opposite directions.

For CSU-Pueblo, things couldn’t be much better. The story of the season thus far has been streaking, and that doesn’t mean they’ve been running around without clothes.

The ThunderWolves are 7-0 on the season and riding a series of streaks, including 27 consecutive Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference victories, one shy of breaking the record set by Chadron State from 2006-09.

A win on Saturday would also run the ThunderWolves’ streaks of consecutive regular season wins to 34, consecutive wins away from home to 19 and would likely keep them in the top-10 in the polls for an NCAA Division II best 28 weeks.

On the other end of the spectrum is Black Hills State, who has yet to win a game more than halfway through the season. The Yellow Jacket’s defense has been vulnerable at best, allowing a Division II-worst 310.8 yards per game on the ground, and giving up an average of 47.3 points each contest.

Those numbers bode well for the ThunderWolves, who come in boasting 44.6 points per game, good for highest scoring in the RMAC and ninth best in the nation.

Head coach John Wristen emphasized that although Black Hills State has seen its fair share of struggles thus far, no opponent can be overlooked.

“The challenge is not the opponent,” Wristen said. “The challenge is within yourself, to demand more of yourself, to demand that you get better each week.”

The ThunderWolves have one of the more potent offensive attacks in the RMAC, and even the nation, led by junior quarterback Chris Bonner.

Bonner heads into Saturday’s contest with Peyton Manning-esque numbers, throwing for 1,905 yards and 20 touchdowns against only three interceptions on the year. At this point in the season, it may be reasonable to suggest Bonner be considered for the Harlon Hill Award, Division II’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.

“I haven’t thought that far ahead,” Wristen said. “I think we have a lot of guys that are playing at a pretty high level, and (Bonner) is one of them.”

The ThunderWolves’ defense will prove to be a difficult code to crack for the Yellow Jackets as well. The defense has recorded 29 sacks on the season, fourth most in the nation.

Sophomore defensive end Morgan Fox contributed three-and-a-half of those sacks last weekend, and is working well with counterpart Darius Allen, who is third in the nation with 10 sacks on the year.

“Everyone just does their job,” Fox said. “You never really get a sack by yourself, you don’t ever want to let anyone else down by not doing your job.”

The ThunderWolves are traveling to Spearfish by bus, and are planning on making a stop at Mount Rushmore before “taking care of business” on Saturday.

Saturday’s game will kick off at 1 p.m.