PUEBLO, Colo. (September 11, 2015) – The No. 2 Colorado State University-Pueblo football team battles West Texas A&M University Saturday at 4 p.m. MT in the final nonconference tilt for the ThunderWolves.
SCOUTING THE PACK: The ThunderWolves started the 2015 season where they left off in 2014 by dominating the line of scrimmage, creating turnovers and winning special teams.
The Pack defeated Central Washington Saturday 41-14, which was sparked by a 24-point second quarter. In that second quarter CSU-Pueblo scored in the first 10 seconds and final 37 second of the frame, blocked a punt and returned it 19 yards to the end zone, got its second of three rushing scores from Cameron McDondle and converted on a wide open 38 yard strike from Malcolm Ruben to Kieren Duncan.
• The Line of Scrimmage - The Pack totaled three sacks (-18 yards), while allowing just one. The ThunderWolves rushed for 298 yards, while allowing just 100.
• Turnovers - CSU-Pueblo recovered two fumbles and totaled two interceptions, while turning the ball over twice on offense.
• The ThunderWolves returned a blocked punt 19 yards for a score and kicker Greg O'Donnell was a perfect 5-for-5 on extra points and knocked through both his field goal attempts (23 and 19 yards).
SCOUTING THE BUFFALOES: The Buffaloes held a 21-0 lead all the way to about six minutes remaining in the first quarter against No. 19 Azusa Pacific Sept. 3, but 10 points before half by the Cougars made it 21-10 at the break. Both teams recorded field goals in the third quarter, but two 75-plus yard touchdown drives by APU in the fourth quarter would be enough for the nationally ranked team to sneak by the Buffaloes 27-24.
• WT was pegged to finish fifth in the Lone Star Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll. West Texas A&M Head Coach Mike Nesbitt begins his third season as the leader of the Buffaloes and is 17-9 in his career.
PRESEASON ALL-AMERICAN: West Texas A&M senior running back Geremy Alridge-Mitchell and junior kicker Conner Hollabaugh were named D2Football.com Preseason Second Team All-America.
• WT has a home record of 45-12 since 2005. During that span, the Buffs haven't lost more than one game at home a season since 2009 (2-3).
SERIES HISTORY VERSUS WT: The ThunderWolves have met the Buffaloes four times since 2011 and own a 3-1 record. The Pack have won all three regular season meetings, which includes a road win in 2011 by the score of 26-24. In last season's opener, CSU-Pueblo won 35-6 at the ThunderBowl.
2011 - Canyon - W, 26-24
2012 - Pueblo - W, 44-34
2012 - Pueblo - NCAA Quarters - L, 34-13
2014 - Pueblo - W, 35-6
THE POLLS: CSU-Pueblo owns the No. 2 spot in both AFCA and D2Football.com polls this week. They were ranked No. 2 in both 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).
Since 2011, the ThunderWolves have won 49 games (49-4 record during that span).
The Pack have recorded 23 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.
The ThunderWolves have won 10 straight games after finishing 2015 with nine consecutive victories.
Two straight games last season (Nov. 15 and Nov. 29) the ThunderWolves posted scores in all three areas of the game. The Pack were just a yard away from doing that again in the season opener. CSU-Pueblo scored 34 points on offense, returned a blocked punt 19 yards to the end zone and Ben Estica's 51-yard interception return came to an end at the Central Washington 1-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
Following fall camp, the ThunderWolves named senior Malcolm Ruben the starting quarterback for the opener. Ruben was just the third starting signal caller in five seasons (Ross Dausin - '10-12 and Chris Bonner - '13-14). He was a productive 7-for-14 for 113 yards and a touchdown in the opener versus Central Washington.
Junior running back Cameron McDondle has rushed for more than 100 yards in 20 career games. He rushed for 176 yards and three touchdowns in the opener. The three scores tied a career high he set as a freshman.
He is the school's all-time career rushing leader with 3,892 yards on the ground.
Bernard McDondle rushed for 125 yards against Central Washington to combined with brother Cameron for 301 yards and mark the first time the Pack had two, 100-yard rushers in a game since 2012 against West Texas A&M (J.B. Mathews -153 and Chris Ashe - 105 ).
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 continued that trend Sept. 5 with a four-play, 56-yard drive against CWU.
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 each season 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 Pack defense forced 43 turnovers and held its opponents to 12.8 points per game a season ago. They started the new year off right by creating four turnovers and allowed just 14 points.
The ThunderWolves are 36-3 since 2008 when they force three or more turnovers in a game. The Pack totaled at least three sacks in 11 of 15 contests last season and did so again to start the 2015 campaign.
Defensive end Morgan Fox totaled two sacks against Central Washington and has 21 in his career. He is chasing former teammate Darius Allen, who graduated last year with 34.5 career sacks.
Greg O'Donnell finished last season with 124 points, going 61-for-62 on extra points. He totaled 11 points in the opener after going 5-for-5 on extra points,
With five blocked punts, the special teams unit finished third nationally in the category in 2014. CSU-Pueblo was one of 14 teams to block a punt last week in the opener.
• 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.
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.
• Four starters on the offensive line, a unit that ranked 26th nationally in least sacks allowed, return in 2015.
• 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.
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.