|Posted October 23, 2010|
Pack claims 26-14 win in rainy scrap with Mesa
Running game, defense re-emerges as ThunderWolves improve to 6-2.
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (GoThunderWolves.com - Oct. 23, 2010) - For the third straight season, wacky weather doomed a CSU-Pueblo/Mesa State gridiron matchup, as a rain storm kept the ball on the ground all night long, playing right into the Pack's hands as CSU-Pueblo claimed a 26-14 win Saturday.
After a bitterly cold meeting in Grand Junction in 2008, and an even colder meeting in Pueblo in 2009 when a freakish ice storm hit the Neta and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl, lightning delayed the start of Saturday's game and a night-long rain storm decided its pace, allowing CSU-Pueblo and its potent rushing attack to consistently move the ball on the ground.
The ThunderWolves logged 193 yards on the ground, with Jesse Lewis (Jr., Loveland, Colo.) rushing for 119 yards and Jamaal Johnson (Jr., Fountain, Colo.) adding two touchdown runs, as the rushing attack logged 47 rushes on the night.
Defensively, CSU-Pueblo feasted on Mesa State after two consecutive weeks of facing spread offenses, allowing just 2.6 yards per rush to the Mavericks and never allowing a run of more than 10 yards on the night.
But the stars were certainly the Pack secondary, which stepped up in a big way in the third quarter. After Mesa State ended the first half with a flurry, closing a 14-0 lead to a 14-14 tie at the break, CSU-Pueblo badly needed to regain momentum and the secondary delivered.
Just a minute into the half, cornerback Grant Crunkleton (Sr., Denver, Colo.) converted his NCAA Division II-best third defensive touchdown of the season with a 40-yard interception return for a score, which put the Pack up 20-14 and put the Mavs in catch-up mode.
"We felt like the first ten minutes of the second half would be the most important in terms of taking back momentum," Pack coach John Wristen said, "and that's just what we did."
A 43-yard field goal by Kyle Major (Jr., Littleton, Colo.) put the Pack up nine early in the first quarter, and really proved to be a clincher late in the game. Major later added another field goal, undoing a night that saw his streak of 36-straight extra points, dating back to last season, snapped on a rainy PAT try in the third quarter.
"I was proud of our special teams performance," Wristen said, "and I think it really was the difference in the game."
CSU-Pueblo will return home next week for its home finale against New Mexico Highlands, which is also the CSU-Pueblo Athletics Hall of Fame Game. The Pack will then close out its 2010 slate with road matches against Western State and Western New Mexico, and hopefully do enough to capture an NCAA Division II playoff berth in the process.