PUEBLO, Colo. (September 17, 2015) – The No. 13 Colorado State University-Pueblo football team begins Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play Sept. 19 in a home tilt against Western State Colorado University, set for 6 p.m. at the Neta and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl.
SCOUTING THE PACK: The ThunderWolves are coming off just their second regular season loss in 50 games, as the Pack suffered a 31-30 setback at West Texas A&M Sept. 12.
Turnovers negated the two interceptions for touchdowns, an 80-yard rushing touchdown and the 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Six times the Pack turned the ball over, which allowed WT to run 29 more plays and outgain the ThunderWolves 341-271.
The lead changed four times and the game was tied on three occasions.
• The two interceptions for touchdowns came from juniors LaRon Tarkington (25 yards) and Samuel Singleton (10 yards). Last season the Pack scored seven defensive touchdowns, which included two pick six scores in a game.
• Senior Cameron McDondle led the offensive attack with 166 yards on 23 carries (7.2 yards per attempt) and a touchdown. That one score was an 80-yard run, which marked a career-high.
• Senior Kieren Duncan posted a 98-yard kickoff return to get the ThunderWolves within one at 31-30 with less than two minutes remaining. The return was the first Pack kick return for a touchdown since Marguise Enach returned a kick 97 yards against Adams State, Sept. 18, 2010.
• Duncan returned two kickoffs for 131 yards and for his efforts earned RMAC Special Teams Player of the Week.
• Since 2008, the Pack are 6-4 in games decided by three points or less.
SCOUTING THE MOUNTAINEERS: TThe Mountaineers are coming off a 48-20 homecoming loss to No. 12 Angelo State Saturday. Western State is 0-2 to start the season after falling on the road to Northern Colorado 42-34. WSCU was pegged to finish fifth in the RMAC Preseason Coaches Poll. Last season the Mountaineers went 4-7 overall and 3-6 in conference play. Head coach Jas Bains is in his fifth season at Western State.
PRESEASON ALL-RMAC: Running back Austin Ekeler rushed for 226 yards in the opener against Northern Colorado for his seventh straight 100 rushing yard game, but he did not play against Angelo State and isn't listed on the Western State Two Deep for today's game.
OFFENSIVE RETURNERS: The Mountaineers return nine offensive starters in 2015.
• Quarterback Brett Arrivey has passed for 611 yards and four touchdowns this season. He is 59-for-98 (60.2%) with two interceptions.
• Western State has four of its top five receivers returning. Last season Travis Haney (610 yards, 4 TD), Darren Brady (430 yards, 2 TD), Austin Ekeler (417 yards, 2 TD), and Kyle Adkins (291 yards, 4 TD) combined for 1,748 yards and 12 touchdowns. This season those four have totaled 337 yards, more than half of the Mountaineers' receiving yards.
DEFENSIVE RETURNERS: Western State welcomed back six returners on the defensive side of the ball.
• Defensive backs Gerald Coleman and Mike Lopez return after combining for 158 tackles .
• Three starters are back from the defensive line, as Victor Alvarez, Thomas Chavira and Austin Yurko are back.
SERIES HISTORY VERSUS WSCU: The ThunderWolves are 13-9 all-time against the Mountaineers and are 7-0 since restarting the program in 2008 (221-89 in that time span). At home the Pack are 7-4 against Western State.
• Last season on the road, the ThunderWolves trailed 23-16 entering the fourth quarter and with three minutes remaining was behind 23-19. The Pack put together a nine-play, 97-yard drive to the end zone in 2:09 to punch in the game-winning touchdown with 43 ticks left and escape with the 26-23 win.
THE POLLS: CSU-Pueblo entered 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. After last week's loss, the Pack rank No. 9 in the D2Football.com poll and No. 13 in the AFCA 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 (49-5 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.
Two straight games last season (Nov. 15 and Nov. 29) the ThunderWolves posted scores in all three areas of the game. The Pack scored a touchdown in all facets against WT with an 80-yard touchdown run, two interceptions for scores and a 98-yard kick return to the end zone.
The Pack have stayed disciplined in the first two games of the season and rank 20th nationally in fewest penalty yards per game (38 penalty yards per game).
The ThunderWolves are a perfect 7-0 in RMAC openers since 2008 and have won nine straight conference openers, dating back to 1983.
The next Pack victory will mark Head Coach John Wristen's 70th win as head of the program. He is 69-17 in eight seasons at CSU-Pueblo.
All five road games this season are located in a different state, Texas, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota and New Mexico.
CSU-PUEBLO POSITION NOTABLES
Senior running back Cameron McDondle has rushed for more than 100 yards in 21 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. Last week he totaled 166 yards and a score.
With 342 yards he ranks sixth nationally and first in the RMAC, while his 171 rushing yards per game is seventh in Division II.
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.
In 2015, the Pack defense have created six turnovers to sit 17th nationally in turnovers gained. Four different players have interceptions this year and the four have totaled 93 return yards, two have brought the pick back for six (LaRon Tarkington, 25 yards and Samuel Singleton, 10 yards at WT).
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 have recorded three sacks in each of the first two games to start the 2015 campaign.
Defensive end Morgan Fox has four sacks this season and 23 in his career. He is chasing former teammate Darius Allen for the program record. Allen capped his four-year career in 2014 with 34.5 career sacks.
Fox sits tied for second nationally in sacks (4) and tackles for loss (7, -36 yards).
With five passes defended, junior safety LaRon Tarkington ranks tied for fifth in Division II in the category.
West Texas A&M running back Geremy Alridge-Mitchell rushed for three touchdowns against the Pack Sept. 12, marking the first time an opponent has recorded three touchdowns on the ground since Ed Goodlow did so for Central State, Sept. 8, 1984.
Kieren Duncan's 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against West Texas A&M is the second longest in NCAA Division II so far this season and the ThunderWolves sit No. 1 nationally in kickoff returns (42 yards per return).
Greg O'Donnell is a perfect 3-for-3 in field goals this year (long of 45 yards). He has also converted on all eight extra point attempts.
With five blocked punts, the special teams unit finished third nationally in the category in 2014. The Pack have blocked two kicks this season (punt and field goal) and rank seventh nationally. The blocked punt was returned 19 yards to the end zone by Zach Young against Central Washington.
RMAC PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
• Kieren Duncan (Sept. 14, Special Teams) - returned a kickoff 98 yards to the end zone to put the ThunderWolves within one at 31-30 with under two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter at West Texas A&M. On two kickoff returns he totaled 131 yards (65.5 yards per return average).
• 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.
#PackPros:CSU-Pueblo has two former players in the NFL in 2015. Ryan Jensen (2009-12) is in his third season with the Baltimore Ravens and Mike Pennel (2013) is in his second season with the Green Bay Packers.
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.