The No. 6 ThunderWolves defeated No. 24 West Texas A&M Buffaloes 44-34 on Thursday night, in the 2012 college football opener, at the Neta & Eddie Derose Thunderbowl.
The teams combined for 52 first downs, and more than 1020 yards from scrimmage in the 78-point affair.
The ThunderWolves, who totaled 265 yards rushing, finished the game with 487 total yards.
“The offensive line dominated the ball game, they did a great job being physical. Ross Dausin played a heck of a ball game, and I’ll tell you what, we have two really fancy running backs who did a nice job,” said head coach John Wristen.
The offensive line did not allow a sack on senior QB Ross Dausin. The preseason RMAC player of the year contributed 222 yards on 20-for-24 passing and two touchdowns.
The running back duo of sophomore J.B. Mathews, and redshirt freshman Chris Ashe, helped carry the offense as well. Both reached the 100-yard rushing mark in the same game, a feat last done by Mathews and Jesse Lewis last year against the Colorado School of Mines.
Mathews finished the game with 153 yards rushing, 78 yards receiving and had two touchdowns, while Ashe finished with 105 yards rushing and one touchdown.
The game, despite the outcome, did not start off in favor of the T-Wolves, as the first play from scrimmage resulted in a fumble, recovered by the Buffaloes.
“No one panicked, we were there last year, the first series when we turned the ball over, and they scored on the next play, so we knew that we’ve been there and that we could weather the storm,” Dausin said.
Six plays later, deep in ThunderWolf territory, the Buffaloes fumbled the ball, and that began the marathon offensive heavyweight bout, that featured teams exchanging blows throughout the game.
After the first quarter, the game was tied 14-14, as whenever the ThunderWolves would score, the Buffaloes came storming back to tie the game.
The ThunderWolves defense adjusted following the first quarter, slowing the Buffaloes scoring, only allowing 20 points, on three touchdowns, for the remainder of regulation.
The fourth quarter featured the play of the game, as redshirt freshman line backer, Kevin Cuff, intercepted a pass, and returned it 74 yards for a touchdown, halting what was a promising Buffalo drive.
“I think our defense is only going to get better, we made a few mistakes, but you know what, we found a way to win. That’s our goal, find a way to win by one point, and that’s what our guys did. I’m proud of our defense, they’re going to only get better, and our coaches did a great job of correcting some mistakes and we’re going to be just fine,” Wristen said.
The defense will, however be without defensive back Stephan Dickens, who had 57 tackles and five interceptions last year, for another week, as he his injury is day-to-day, and not expected to play in next weeks game at Northwestern Oklahoma State, according to Wristen.
Thursday night also marked the arrival of redshirt freshman kicker Greg O’Donnell, emerging from the shadow of ex-ThunderWolf kicker, Kyle Major, who in his first game, was 3-3 in field goals, each of which were 36 yards or further, the deepest being from 47 yards.
“I try not to think about it very much (replacing Kyle Major), it’s an honor that I did so well, and that we beat West Texas, they’re a really good team,” O’Donnell said.