ThunderWolves lose by inches at No. 17 Colorado Mesa, 20-19

ThunderWolves lose by inches at No. 17 Colorado Mesa, 20-19

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (October 1, 2016) - Down 20-19 with 11 seconds remaining, the Colorado State University-Pueblo football team had the ball inside the No. 17 Colorado Mesa University's one-yard-line and elected for to go for a touchdown with a quarterback sneak. The play, which created controversy, was called no touchdown and as time ran out on the Pack, the Mavericks escaped with a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference victory in Grand Junction, Colorado.

The Pack (2-3, 2-2 RMAC) suffered their third loss in a season for the first time 2009, while Colorado Mesa improved to 5-0 overall and in conference play.

The road team held a 16-3 lead early in the third and was ahead 19-13 with 5:14 remaining in regulation. The Mavericks responded with a six-play, 79-yard drive and led for the first time in the game 20-19 with 3:07 left.

The Pack were unable to hit back and suffered their only turnover of the game on fourth and four to give the ball back to CMU with just 2:29 left. CSU-Pueblo forced a three-and-out and used up their second timeout of the half to force a punt with 54 seconds remaining.

The ThunderWolves' best shot at winning the game was to block the punt and they did just that, as freshman Tanner Draper (DB, Amarillo, Texas) got a paw on the ball and the Pack took over at the CMU 40. Two quick strikes to tight end Zach Boyd (Fort Lupton, Colo.) moved the ball 26 yards to the Maverick 14-yard-line.

Using their final timeout with 26 seconds left, the Pack went to the ground and junior running back Bernard McDondle (Littleton, Colo.) nearly ended the game with a 12 yard run down to the home team's two. 

On the next play, quarterback Rex Dausin (San Antonio, Texas) tried a quarterback keeper, but the ball was spotted inside the one. After unraveling the pile, the officials decided the ball should be spotted just feet from the goal line with 11 seconds remaining.

The Pack had to run a play once the white hat ran the clock, so the call was another sneak. As ThunderWolves players, coaches and fans celebrated a third straight victory, the officials' arms never went up to signal a score and after all was said and done, the Mavericks celebrated a late-game comeback for the third straight week.

The Pack defense totaled two interceptions on a Maverick squad that was just one of seven teams without a pick through the first four games. Both interceptions led to points for the ThunderWolves. CSU-Pueblo recorded two sacks and held the league's second best scoring offense (38.5 ppg entering Saturday) in check.

The Pack offense ran 16 more plays and totaled 410 yards to CMU's 352 yards. The ThunderWolves racked up 202 yards on the ground and allowed just 65. CSU-Pueblo also held the ball for 12 more minutes (36:00-24:00).

Entering the game, CSU-Pueblo ranked eighth nationally in fewest penalties and fewest penalty yards, but in the loss to the Mavericks, committed 13 penalties for 119 yards. Fifteen of those yards came on the final scoring drive for the Mavericks, extending their drive and erasing a third down sack for a loss of nine yards.

After starting his collegiate career 2-of-5 on field goal attempts, freshman Nathan Taylor (Phoenix, Ariz.) was a highlight for the Pack, as he made his first three field goals and went 4-for-5 in the game. He hit from 33-, 41-, 25- and 25-yards out with the lone miss coming in the fourth from 36.

After missing two games because of injury, McDondle returned and rushed for 188 yards on 30 carries (6.3 ypc). He scored the only touchdown for the Pack - a 12-yard run in the second quarter - and recorded a long run of 73 yards.

Dausin went 19-for-36 for 208 yards. His long pass was aired out for 41 yards to his favorite target of the day, as senior Daniel Wise (WR, Arlington, Texas) caught four passes for 89 yards. He also returned two kickoffs 82 yards (long of 42) and a punt for four yards to compile 175 all-purpose yards.

Senior outside linebacker Ryan Merrill (Scottsdale, Ariz.) led the team with nine tackles (six solo) and brought in the first interception of the season for the Mavericks. He added a tackle for loss (-1 yard) and totaled two quarterback hurries. Senior safety Joseph Jones (Fountain, Colo.) added five tackles (three solo), a tackle for loss (-1 yard) and recorded the other interception (in the end zone).

The Pack have totaled five interceptions in the last three games after going the first two without a picked pass.

Next the ThunderWolves continue on the road for a RMAC showdown in Alamosa, Colo. Oct. 8 at 1 p.m. versus Adams State University (1-4, 1-4 RMAC).

30 –

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