Sixth-ranked Pack don't let up in huge win over D-II power.
BY WESTON ALLENBACK, GoThunderWolves.com Insider
PUEBLO, Colo. (GoThunderWolves.com - Aug. 30, 2012) - CSU-Pueblo succeeded in a big test Thursday night, opening its season against a 24th-ranked West Texas A&M squad with a win as the 6th-ranked ThunderWolves posted a rousing 44-34 season-opening win.
Though both squads were certainly highly-touted, the first possessions by each team show little brilliance.
The Pack fumbled on the opening play from scrimmage, giving the Buffaloes a golden opportunity to take an early lead on the road.
"There isn't one play that defines games," ThunderWolves Head Coach John Wristen said. "You just got to keep playing. We don't ask our players to be perfect. We just ask them to play hard."
Fortunately for the ThunderWolves, the Pack defense rose to the occasion. Buffs quarterback Dustin Vaughan returned the favor, fumbling the snap on 2nd-and-goal and the Pack's sophomore safety, Jarrod Lacy (So., Boynton Beach, Fla.) recovered.
From there, the Pack offense settled in. Redshirt freshman running back Chris Ashe (RFr., Widefield, Colo.) scored the first point of the game on the very next drive on an 8-yard run and the offensive flood gates opened.
"I give all the credit to my line," said Ashe. "They opened up the holes and I just made sure I hit the holes."
"Hit the hole" is exactly what Ashe did. Rushing for 100 yards and a touchdown is his first colligate game, he filled in just fine for an offense that lost an All-American.
Ashe wasn't the only running back responsible for the 304 yards gained by the ThunderWolves. Sophomore running back J.B. Mathews (So., Aurora, Colo.) added 186 on the ground and a pair of touchdown runs.
"We focused on the little things," said Mathews. "We tried to make big plays and also stay to together as a team and keep moving forward from that."
But, the Buffaloes didn't travel all this way to roll over for the Pack. Just like last season, Vaughan slung the ball well against a stingy secondary for the Pack. However the ThunderWolves made big plays in key moments of the game.
With just over 14 minutes left in the game while the Buffs were driving to pull within one score, redshirt freshman Kevin Cuff (RFr., San Diego, Calif.) intercepted Vaughn and took it 74-yards for a score, breaking the game wide open and giving the ThunderWolves a commanding 37-20 lead.
From there, the Pack seized momentum and kept the foot on the gas pedal, not allowing the Buffs to get back in the game. In the end, the ThunderWolves offense accounted for 516 yards of total offense, the second-most yards gained by a ThunderWolf team since the program returned to the field in 2008. Additionally, the Pack posted its fifth straight season-opening win, including its second straight over nationally-ranked West Texas A&M teams.
CSU-Pueblo will get a nine-day break, travelling to Northwestern Oklahoma State to take on a Ranger team that opened its season with a 55-3 loss to Ouachita Baptist (Ark.) this weekend.