Defending National Champions set for 2015 title defense

PUEBLO, COLO. (Sept. 4, 2015) – The No. 2 Colorado State University-Pueblo football team is set to begin its NCAA Division II National Championship Saturday when it hosts Central Washington University at 5 p.m. at the Neta and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl. The game is set to air locally on Altitude 2 and Comcast CET, while also appearing on NCAA.com. 

CSU-Pueblo Game Notes / Central Washington Game Notes

RADIO: Fox Sports Pueblo (1350 AM Pueblo) 
STREAMING AUDIO: www.foxsportspueblo.com & iHeartRadio (app)
LIVE STATS / VIDEO
TELEVISION: Altitude 2 (DirecTV - 681-1 / on Dish Network- 450 SD & 9573 HD) / Comcast CET (105 SD and 900 HD)

SCOUTING THE PACK: The ThunderWolves (14-1 in 2014) return 16 starters from the 2014 NCAA Division II National Championship team, which includes six on a defensive unit that finished first in NCAA Division II in scoring defense (12.8 ppg) and passes intercepted (29) and tied for first in defensive touchdowns (7) and turnovers gained (43). CSU-Pueblo also finished first nationally in total sacks with 57. 

• Senior defensive end Morgan Fox recorded 12.5 of those quarterback takedowns and was named Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. 

• CSU-Pueblo's leading tackler is back for 2015, as senior inside linebacker Joe Rosenbrock will help lead the defense after he totaled 107 tackles (61 solo) as a junior. The Pack offense returns four All-Americans.• Senior running back Cameron McDondle, who set a ThunderWolves single-season record with 2,014 rushing yards to finish third nationally. The power back's 134.3 yards per game ranked ninth in Division II, while his 16 touchdowns on the ground was 15th nationally. 

• Four starters on the offensive line, a unit that ranked 26th nationally in least sacks allowed, return in 2015. 

• Three of the four top receivers are also back, guided by the Preseason All-RMAC selection, Kieren Duncan, who led the team in receptions (45) and reception yards (712) last season.

• On special teams, senior place kicker Greg O'Donnell returns after he hit 21 field goals to tie for the second most in Division II last season.

SCOUTING THE WILDCATS: The Wildcats are coming off a 7-4 record under second-year head coach Ian Shoemaker. CWU tied for second in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference with a 4-2 mark and were pegged to finish third in the GNAC Preseason Coaches' Poll. 

PRESEASON ALL-AMERICAN: Senior defensive back Cedrique Chaney was named D2Football.com Preseason First Team All-American. In three years, Chaney has recorded 36 pass deflections (fourth all-time at CWU) and six interceptions. He also ranks third in school history with three blocked kicks (all in 2014). 

OFFENSIVE RETURNERS: The Wildcats welcome back their top quarterback, running back and two of the top three receivers from last season.

• Junior quarterback Jake Nelson threw for 2,702 yards and 23 touchdowns with 13 interceptions.

• Senior running back Jordan Todd rushed for 738 yards and 12 touchdowns on 191 carries. He averaged 67.1 yards per game and 3.9 yards per carry.

• Junior wide receivers Jesse Zalk and Kent McKinney ranked second and third on CWU and combined for 1,089 yards on 82 receptions and 13 touchdowns.

DEFENSIVE RETURNERS: Central Washington has four of its top five tackle leaders from 2014, including its top two.

• Sophomore linebacker Kevin Haynes is back after leading the team in tackles with 99 and tying for the team lead with five interceptions (145 return yards).

• Senior linebacker Mitch Haldane complied 85 tackles, which included 14 tackles for loss (-45 yards) and 4.5 sacks (-34 yards) in 2014. He forced a team-best three fumbles and recovered one.

SERIES HISTORY VERSUS CWU: Today's contest will be the first meeting between the two teams. 

WASHINGTON CONNECTION: 

• Senior Deontrae Cooper's twin brother, Deontae, is a tailback at University of Washington, which is just 109 miles northwest of Central Washington's campus in Ellensburg, Wash.

• The Pack tout two players from Washington: Bryce Vitchvich (Marysville) and DeShon Williams (Maple Valley).  

THE POLLS: CSU-Pueblo enters the 2015 season as the No. 2 team in both AFCA and D2Football.com preseason polls after finishing the 2014 season No. 1 in both publications' year-end poll. The ThunderWolves ranked in the top 10 nationally for a NCAA Division II-best 37 straight weeks from Oct. 17, 2011 (eighth) to Oct. 6, 2014 (second).

TEAM NOTES

• Since 2011, the ThunderWolves have won 48 games (48-4 record during that span). 

• The Pack have recorded 22 consecutive regular season home victories, dating back to a 66-0 win against New Mexico Highlands Oct. 30, 2010. CSU-Pueblo went 8-0 at home last season and since reinstating the program in 2008, the ThunderWolves are 35-9 at the ThunderBowl. 

• CSU-Pueblo has won each of its season openers and all seven home openers since reinstating the program in 2008.

• The ThunderWolves have won nine straight games, which included the 13-0 victory against then-No. 1 Minnesota State in the national championship game.

• CSU-Pueblo outscored its opponent 229-98 (+131) in the second half last season and held the opponent to just 93 points in the first half. 

• Two straight games last season (Nov. 15 and Nov. 29) the ThunderWolves posted scores in all three areas of the game. Against New Mexico Highlands (Nov. 15) the Pack scored five touchdowns on offense, returned an interception for a score and added a safety on a blocked punt. The squad scored touchdowns in the three areas against Angelo State (Nov. 29). Against Ohio Dominican (Dec. 6), the Pack had offensive and punt return touchdown and returned an interception down to the ODU two-yard-line.

• CSU-Pueblo trailed at the half just once in 2014. The ThunderWolves trailed West Georgia, 7-3, in the semifinals. The Pack led at the half 12 times and were tied twice.

CSU-PUEBLO POSITION NOTABLES

OFFENSE

• Following fall camp, the ThunderWolves named senior Malcolm Ruben the starting quarterback for today's opener. Ruben will be just the third starting signal caller in five seasons (Ross Dausin - '10-12 and Chris Bonner - '13-14). Bonner is a student assistant coach for the Pack this season, while Dausin's younger brother, Rex, is on the roster.

• Junior running back Cameron McDondle rushed for more than 100 yards in 12 of 15 games last season, which included 11 of the last 12 games. He eclipsed the 1,000 yard-mark for the first time in his career in just the eighth game of the season at No. 11 Colorado Mines. 

• The ThunderWolves scored on their opening drive 10 out of 15 games last season. Of those 10 opening-drive scores, eight were touchdowns and two were field goals. The Pack scored on their first drive in each of the first three playoff games.

DEFENSE

• The Pack have been one of the most stingiest and unforgiving defenses in the nation the past four seasons. Since 2011, the ThunderWolves have ranked in the top 22 nationally in scoring defense, which includes leading the country in 2011 and 2014. CSU-Pueblo has also ranked in the top 21 in turnover ratio with the nation's best mark last season. 

• The ThunderWolves held 14 out of their 15 opponents below their final season scoring average, including each of its four opponents in the playoffs. The Pack held nine of their opponents to three touchdowns or more below their season average.

• The Pack defense forced 43 turnovers and held its opponents to 12.8 points per game. The ThunderWolves allowed less than 10 points seven times to improve to 26-0 since 2008 when holding an opponent to 10 points or less.

• The ThunderWolves forced three or more turnovers in 10 of 15 games to improve to 35-3 since 2008. The Pack totaled at least three sacks in 11 of 15 contests, posting eight in the win at Sam Houston State Sept. 13 and six against West Georgia Dec. 13. Three times in 2013 CSU-Pueblo recorded eight or more sacks (10 versus Fort Lewis, Oct. 5).

SPECIAL TEAMS

• In the category of net punting, the ThunderWolves have finished in the top five nationally in each of the last three seasons .  

• Greg O'Donnell finished with 124 points, going 61-for-62 on extra points. 

• With five blocked punts, the special teams unit finished third nationally in the category. 

THE STREAK: CSU-Pueblo posted three straight 11-0 seasons entering 2014 and was just one of two teams in NCAA Division II history to accomplish the feat. After starting 5-0 in 2014, the Pack owned 42 straight regular season victories, which was the second-longest in NCAA Division II history, behind only Grand Valley State, which posted 48 straight wins from 2004-09. The streak ended Oct. 11 in a 23-22 road loss at Fort Lewis. 

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As a member of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, Colorado State University – Pueblo competes in 22 varsity sports in NCAA Division II intercollegiate athletics.