By Weston Allenback, GoThunderWolves.com Insider
PUEBLO, Colo. (GoThunderWolves.com - Nov. 3, 2012) - CSU-Pueblo overcame a seven-point fourth quarter deficit behind an offensive explosion to knock off RMAC rival New Mexico Highlands 31-17 on senior day at the Neta and Eddie DeRose Thunderbowl.
With the win the ThunderWolves clinched at least a share of the RMAC title for the second season in a row and increased their regular season win streak to RMAC record 25 games.
"It was really a tremendous effort," said Head Coach John Wristen. "Our body language never changed and I think our demeanor was great throughout the game."
Even when the Pack took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter on a J.B. Mathews (So., Aurora, Colo.) 6-yard touchdown run, if never felt as if the offense was hitting on all cylinders. But, as the offense struggled, the defense stood their ground, only allowing the Cowboys three points at halftime and went into the locker room with a 10-3 lead.
To try and spring the offense into motion, Wristen went into his back of tricks. Driving in the third-quarter and facing a third down, the ThunderWolves tried the old-fashioned flea-flicker. However, the ball was badly underthrown and picked off by a Cowboys defensive back.
On the ensuing drive, the ThunderWolf defense had its back against the wall as Highlands began to drive. They found themselves in the red zone, but the Pack defense was up to the challenge and Mark Sterling (Sr., Colorado Springs, Colo.) intercepted Cowboy quarterback Emmanuel Lewis in the end zone keeping the score 10-3.
"Everybody brought it today," said Nick Henderson (Jr., Berthoud, Colo.). "Our coaches gave us a great game plan and we went out and executed. Our defensive line was working hard and the quarterback had nowhere to throw."
Again, the ThunderWolf offense wasn't able to get itself rolling like they are used to, and once the Cowboys got the ball back, they finally found a way to break the Pack defense down.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, they found the end zone for the first time in the game on a 4-yard touchdown run and just like that, the game was tied at 10-10.
The very next drive, Mathews fumbled and it looked as if the ThunderWolves were in a deep hole. But the defense made a play and got the ball right back into the offense's hands. The first play following the Pack fumble, Lewis took a shot down field but it ended up in the hands of Henderson.
Once the Pack offense had a quick three and out, the ball was once again in the hands of the Cowboys, this time they were able to punch it in for six-points to take the lead 17-10 with just eight minutes remaining.
But the lead was short lived as the Pack did what it has done all season when it has trailed - find a way to win. Quarterback Ross Dausin (Sr., San Antonio, Tex.) and the ThunderWolf offense found a way to use the aggressive style defense the Cowboys were playing against them.
"They (Highlands) got after us today and played a great game," said Dausin. "We struggled and we were just inches away from breaking the game open in the first half, but we knew we couldn't give up, that is how we built the success we have had."
Mathews took a 40-yard screen pass from Dausin for a touchdown and all of the sudden the Pack offense found their stride - and luckily it wasn't too late.
They got the ball right back and did the same thing, used screens to get down the field before finally Mathews went into the end zone for the third time and gave the Pack a 24-17 lead, which they never surrendered.
With the win, the ThunderWolves sent their seniors out in style, with yet another RMAC championship.
"It is really a great feeling to see how hard these guys worked and how they got it done," said Wristen. "It was really special to see them pull together as a team and function in 2012."
CSU-Pueblo can win the RMAC outright next weekend when they travel to Western State in the regular season finale. Western State has won only one game this season. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. next Saturday in Gunnison.