|Posted September 19, 2009|
Instant legitimacy: Pack beats Chadron State
CSU-Pueblo 28, No. 15 Chadron State 17
CHADRON, Neb. - You might call it the shot heard 'round the world, at least in terms of the RMAC football world, as CSU-Pueblo did something no RMAC team has done since 2005 - go on the road to Chadron State, the three-time defending RMAC champion, and earn a win, knocking off the conference lynchpin 28-17.
Not bad for a football program in just its second year of competition.
It was just one year ago that Chadron State entered CSU-Pueblo's Neta and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl and treated the Pack like its personal ragdoll, routing the ThunderWolves 32-0 and upsetting the Pack's then 2-0 start.
Saturday, the Pack defense held the Eagles to just 283 yards of total offense, forcing three turnovers and converting four touchdowns of 35 yards or more to stun the Eagles on their home turf. Not since Oct. 14, 2005, when Nebraska-Kearney scored a 20-14 win - a span of 28 games - have the Eagles lost an RMAC game. Their last home RMAC loss came earlier that year in a 27-26 loss to the Colorado School of Mines. The Pack's 28-17 win also marks the largest margin of loss for the Eagles in RMAC play since 2002, when Kearney defeated Chadron State 12-0.
As late as the third quarter, CSU-Pueblo seemed to have little chance at knocking off the Eagles. A fumbled snap at the Pack three-yard line was recovered by Chadron State in the end zone, as Chadron's slim 10-7 halftime lead quickly turned into a 17-7 lead with 7:44 remaining in third quarter.
But the Pack showed a great deal of maturity in handling the untimely score. Starting the ensuing drive on their own 6-yard-line, the Pack quickly picked up 20 yards in two plays, then hit paydirt as quarterback Colin Clancy (Sr., Longmont, Colo.) found Demetrius Gilmore (So., Colorado Springs, Colo.) for a 68-yard touchdown strike, and suddenly, the Pack was trailing by just three, 17-14, with 6:47 remaining in the 3rd quarter and momentum squarely in the Pack's hands.
After forcing a punt on the next possession, CSU-Pueblo embarked on an epic drive that pulled the carpet out from under Chadron State. The Pack mounted a 13-play, 84-yard drive that culminated in an amazing touchdown pass - wide receiver Ayrius Justin (Sr., Inglewood, Calif.) took a direct snap from center, and threw a 37-yard touchdown strike to Augustine Agyei (Sr., Aurora, Colo.), his second touchdown grab of the day, as the ThunderWolves took a 21-17 lead with 11:32 remaining in the game.
At that point, the ThunderWolves expected a dog fight, but were able to maintain momentum. Just three plays into Chadron State's ensuing drive, Lee Meisner (So., Sterling, Colo.) picked off a Nate Peterson pass at midfield, giving the Pack offense another chance to score.
The ThunderWolves did just that, undertaking a 7-play, 56-yard drive, finished by tailback Jesse Lewis (So., Loveland, Colo.), who turned a screen pass into a 44-yard touchdown rumble, and the ThunderWolves had a two-score lead with 5:59 remaining in the game.
With the 11-point lead, it was the defense that sealed the game. On the Eagles' next possession, Peterson immediately tossed an interception to Jason Campbell (RFr., Kailua, Hawaii), setting up a time-killing 9-play, 10-yard drive, complete with a roughing the kicker call by Chadron State on a CSU-Pueblo punt attempt, that left the Eagles with little options for a comeback.
In a two-minute drill offense, Chadron State drove to the CSU-Pueblo three-yard line, but had any dreams of a comeback dashed when Josh Mack (Jr., Pueblo, Colo.) sacked Peterson on 4th-and-goal, ushering in the Pack's victory formation.
From day one, CSU-Pueblo head coach John Wristen established one of the top team goals as beating Chadron State. To do it in just their second meeting with the Eagles was nothing short of amazing, and Wristen said that the players and coaches in the program have always envisioned that this day would come.
"I told our team that we needed to dream it, needed to believe it, then we would see it," Wristen said about beating Chadron. "Our character stood up today. Our kids and coaching staff laid it on the line, and what a great win. I couldn't be prouder of this team. We hung together and getting the win is pretty darn sweet."
Suddenly, CSU-Pueblo is a legitimate first-place team in the RMAC, tied with Nebraska-Kearney with a 3-1 record overall and 2-0 in RMAC play. Four teams in the RMAC have a 2-0 mark after Saturday's slate of play, and one of those teams, Colorado School of Mines, heads to the ThunderBowl next Saturday.