No. 16 ThunderWolves host Hardrockers Saturday for annual Homecoming game

PUEBLO, Colo. (Sept. 26, 2018) - The Colorado State University-Pueblo football team ranks No. 16 in both national polls, as the ThunderWolves enter a Homecoming/CSU-Pueblo Athletics Hall of Fame Game Sept. 29 against South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. The contest is set for a 2 p.m. kickoff at the Neta and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl.

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CSU-PUEBLO PDF GAME NOTES

THE GAME 

• The ThunderWolves are coming off a 23-13 win against then-No. 1 Texas A&M-Commerce. The victory marked the second time the Pack have defeated a No. 1 team, with the first time coming against Minnesota State University, Mankato in the 2014 NCAA Division II National Championship.  

• CSU-Pueblo trailed 10-0 after the first, but used 16 unanswered points to take a 16-10 lead in the third quarter. R-Fr. RB Marcus Lindsay secured the upset victory with a fourth quarter four-yard touchdown run on fourth and goal. 

• The Pack rank No. 16 in the AFCA and D2Fotball.com polls (up from No. 22 and No. 23, respectfully) after the win and own a 3-1 overall record and a 2-1 mark in RMAC play.

• South Dakota Mines is 2-2 on the season with a 1-2 record in conference. The Hardrockers are coming off a 51-47 road loss to Dixie State. SDM&T led 33-27 at the break in a shoot-out of a first half. The back-and-forth match continued in the second frame as the Hardrockers led 47-44 with 5:23 remaining, but a Dixie State touchdown with 1:39 left handed the home team a 51-47 win.

• CSU-Pueblo has won both all-time meetings with the Hardrockers. At home in 2016 the Pack won 37-10 and on the road last season the ThunderWolves posted a 34-14 victory. In the road win last season, CSU-Pueblo gathered 462 yards of offense (227 passing, 235 rushing). 

HOMECOMING/HALL OF FAME 

• Saturday's game is the annual homecoming game. Since the return of football in 2008 the ThunderWolves are a perfect 10-0 on homecoming. 

• CSU-Pueblo is 26-6 all-time in the homecoming game. Last season, the Pack won 63-17 against Adams State. 

• At halftime, CSU-Pueblo Athletics will recognize their 9th Hall of Fame class. This year's inductees include, Mannie Garcia (Wrestling, 1990-93), Robert Kinsey (Men's Soccer, 2008-11), Pepper (Mahon) Whittlef (Volleyball, 1995-96), Eugene Poston (Men's Basketball, 1954-56), Danita Wyatt (Women's Track and Field, 2010-12), Joe Folda (Men's Basketball and Director of Athletics, 1987-2018), Women's Basketball's 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010 RMAC Tournament Champion teams. 

SCOUTING THE PACK 

• The run game is averaging 277.0 yards per game to rank 7th in NCAA Division II.  

• RB Marché Dennard is 8th in Division II with 7.81 yards per carry. His five rushing touchdowns is T-19th nationally and he ranks 37th with 375 rushing yards (93.8 ypg).

• The run game has three players with 215 or more yards this season and four different players have combined for the 13 rushing scores.     

• The Pack defense held strong against Texas A&M-Commerce and allowed just six of the 13 points and only allowed 179 total yards (40 rushing). The ThunderWolves rank No. 12 nationally in total defense (247.0 ypg), while their team pass efficiency defense is 8th (90.2 ypg). 

• CSU-Pueblo collected five turnovers (four fumbles and an interception) against the Lions, which equated to 13 points. The Pack are 7th in DII with 12 turnovers gained. 

• The ThunderWolves finished with nine tackles for loss, which included two sacks at TAMUC. CSU-Pueblo sits 8th nationally in tackles for loss (10.30 TFLpg) and 24th in sacks (3.0 spg).  

• ILB Brandon Payer has led the team in tackles in each of the first four games. He leads the RMAC and ranks 14th nationally with 11.5 tackles per game. His 2.5 tackles for loss per game ranks sixth in DII and is also a RMAC-best. 

• For their efforts against the then-No. 1 Lions, Payer was recognized as the RMAC and NFFCC Defensive Player of the Week and K Mitchell Carter was named RMAC Special Teams Player of the Week. Payer totaled 10 tackles, 3.5 TFL and a fumble recovery, while Carter totaled nine points and hit three field goals. 

SCOUTING SOUTH DAKOTA MINES

• South Dakota Mines is 2-2 on the season with a 1-2 record in conference. The team has wins against Western (38-21) and Simon Fraser (52-28) and losses to Colorado Mesa (36-33) and Dixie State (51-47). 

• The Hardrockers are coming off a 51-47 road loss to Dixie State. SDM&T led 33-27 at the half in a shootout of a first half. The back-and-forth match continued in the second frame as the Hardrockers led 47-44 with 5:23 remaining, but a Dixie State touchdown with 1:39 remaining handed the home team a 51-47 win.

• South Dakota Mines sits first in the RMAC (11th nationally) with 42.5 points per game and has scored 22 touchdowns. The Hardrockers' 489.8 yards per game of offense ranks 1st in the league (11th in the nation), with 303.3 yards per game coming through the air (15th in Division II).  

• The offense ranks fifth nationally in 3rd down conversion percentage (54.4%). 

• QB Jake Sullivan is 9th nationally in passing yards (1,190) and 11th nationally and 1st in the RMAC with 297.5 passing yards per game. He has 343.8 yards per game of total offense to rank 5th nationally.

• WR Isaiah Manley is the top target with 392 yards per game to sit 17th in Division II. 

• RB Connor Silveria has six rushing TDs to rank 9th nationally, while his 12 points per game is 7th in Division II. 

• The defense is first in the RMAC and 3rd nationally with nine interceptions, while their 14 turnovers gained in 2nd nationally. 

• DB Dominick Jackson has five interceptions to lead the RMAC and rank T-1st nationally.

THE POLLS 

• CSU-Pueblo entered 2018 ranked No. 14 in the AFCA and No. 13 D2Football.com polls. The Pack were as high as No. 9 in both polls, but currently rank No. 16 in the AFCA and D2Football.com rankings.

• The Pack ranked in the AFCA top 25 for 66 consecutive polls ranging from Sept. 5, 2011 (21st) to Sept. 5, 2016 (19th).

• 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 2008, CSU-Pueblo is undefeated when scoring 35 or more points (52-0) and when allowing 10 points or less (39-0).

• Since 2008, the ThunderWolves are 53-11 (.828) at the ThunderBowl.

• The ThunderWolves have eight scoring plays of 65-yards or more and own five scoring drives of 75 yards or more. 

• The ThunderWolves have scored first in three of the first four games this season (2-1) and since 2008 own a 75-9 record.

• The defense hadn't allowed a fourth quarter score in the previous seven regular season games until giving up a touchdown at Mines. In the last 13 regular season games the team has allowed just 20 points in the final frame, dating back to Sept. 16, 2017.

CSU-PUEBLO POSITION NOTABLES

OFFENSE

• Against Dixie State, the ThunderWolves established a program record with 497 yards on the ground. The previous top three were: 481 against Westminster in 1977, 435 yards against Western New Mexico, Oct. 31, 2009 and last season's 405 rushing yards against New Mexico Highlands. 

• With 277.0 yards rushing, the ThunderWolves rank No. 7 in NCAA Division II. 

• The Pack are racking up the yards by committee with three players who own 215 or more yards. Marché Dennard owns 375 yards on 48 carries with five touchdowns. He ranks 8th nationally in yards per carry (7.81),  T-19th nationally in rushing touchdowns (5). Austin Micci adds 321 yards (80.2 ypg) and four touchdowns. Finally, Bernard McDondle has 215 yards rushing  with three touchdowns and 74 yards receiving with a score. 

• With 33.5 points per game, the ThunderWolves are fifth in the conference in scoring.

• Starting QB Brandon Edwards established a career high with 315 yards passing against Mines. He recorded one touchdown in the loss.

• He has produced an efficiency rating of 121.3, has thrown 36-for-71 (50.7%) for 542 yards and two touchdowns. Both his touchdown strikes have gone for 68 yards. His one interception was a desperation throw at the end of the Mines loss. 

• CSU-Pueblo's 14.4 passing yards per completion leads the RMAC. Edwards is gathering 15.1 yards per completed pass to sit 19th in the nation. 

• The Pack have thrown two interceptions this season and rank second in the league and 21st nationally in least passes intercepted.

• WR Cole Forsgren had a career game at Mines with eight receptions for 130 yards. He leads the team with 12 receptions (next has five) for 215 yards (next has 90) and a score.  

• All five starting offensive linemen last season were seniors, but the new front didn't hesitate to step up and guided the rushing attack to a record 496 yards in game one. The Pack are seventh nationally in rushing. 

DEFENSE

• The Pack have been one of the most stingiest and unforgiving defenses in the nation the past eight seasons. Since 2011, the ThunderWolves have finished the season 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 (or turnovers gained) in all but one season in that span with the nation's best mark in 2014. 

• The defense closed the 2017 regular season top 20 nationally in eight categories, red zone defense (3rd, 57.7%), interceptions (4th, 21), team passing efficiency defense (4th, 88.95), defensive touchdowns (7th, 5), scoring defense (10th, 14.3), total defense (10th, 273.5), turnovers gained (11th, 27) and passing yards allowed (18th, 164.6).

• By allowing 247 yards per game the ThunderWolves lead the RMAC and rank 12th nationally. 

• CSU-Pueblo hasn't hesitated in creating turnovers and with six interceptions (three against Dixie State) and six fumbles recovered (four against Texas A&M-Commerce) the Pack rank 7th nationally in turnovers gained. The fumbles recovered number is 5th nationally, while the interception total sits  21st.

• Since 2008, the Pack have totaled 34 interception returns for a touchdown. The most in a season is five by the 2010, 2014 and 2017 squads. ILB Kyle Rosenbrock recorded a pick six on the second play at Mines. He went 26 yards to the house.

• With 18.8 points per game allowed the ThunderWolves are second in the league.

• CB Darius Williams doesn't have a pick yet, but has at least one pick six in each of his three seasons with the Pack and four in his career. His eight interceptions last season established a new program record, was a RMAC best and ranked T-2nd in NCAA Division II. 

• Fellow starting CB Emery Taylor recorded six interceptions last season. In 2018 he has two interceptions (vs Chadron and at TAMUC) a team-high five pass break-ups. With seven passes defended (1.8 per game), Tayor ranks 12th nationally.

• CSU-Pueblo's rushing defense was established on game one of the program re-boot in 2008. The Pack allowed 13 yards rushing against Oklahoma Panhandle State (Sept. 8, 2008) and since have held their opponent to less than 50 yards rushing on 20 more occasions. 

• Six times since 2008 the ThunderWolves have allowed 10 or less rushing yards, with the record standing at -4 rushing yards at New Mexico Highlands Nov. 9, 2013.

• CSU-Pueblo was 1st in the league in the category last season and is again leading the way in the RMAC with 101.3 yards per game allowed.

• The Pack recorded seven sacks against DSU and compiled 15 tackles for loss. CSU-Pueblo ranks 8th nationally in tackles for loss (40, 10.0 TFLpg) and 24th in sacks (12, 3.0 spg). 

• ILB Brandon Payer finished last season with 110 tackles with 71 solo. His 71 solo efforts established a new program record and ranked 22nd nationally.

• This season, Payer leads the RMAC with 46 tackles (20 solo) and adds with 10 tackles for loss (-18 yards) that also ranks 1st in the RMAC. With 11.5 tackles per game he sits 14th nationally and the 2.5 tackles for loss per game is good for 6th in Division II.  

• DE Michael Wristen finished with 2.5 sacks (-16 yards) against Dixie State and leads the team in the category with 4.0 (-22 yards), which is good for 2nd in the RMAC and 27th nationally (1.0 per game). He totaled 3.5 sacks in all of 2017.

• CSU-Pueblo is 1st in league and 13th in DII in red zone defense. The ThunderWolves have allowed four scores (2 TDs, 2 FGs) in the red zone in seven opponent attempts (57%). 

• The Pack lead the RMAC and sit 16th nationally in 3rd down conversion defense, as they allow their opponents to convert just a 24.6 percent of the time.

• The ThunderWolves are 8th in passing efficiency defense (90.2) and 17th nationally in passing yards allowed (145.8).

SPECIAL TEAMS   

• The Pack had four blocked kicks last year and have already got their hands on a punt, an extra point attempt and a FG attempt, as Tanner Draper blocked a 27-yard attempt by Dixie State, which was recovered by James Maxie and returned by Darius Williams 68 yards for a touchdown. The three blocked kicks ties the Pack for 6th in Division II. On the flip side, CSU-Pueblo hasn't allowed a block in the first four games. 

• K Mitchell Carter was 55-for-56 on extra points in his first season with the Pack and started this year 17-for-17. He is 4-for-6 on field goal attempts. 

• The ThunderWolves rank 3rd in the RMAC in net punting (37.6 yards), while P Tanner Cuda's 43.7 yards per punt ranks 15th nationally and third in the league.

• CSU-Pueblo is the league leader in kickoff return defense, as it allows 17.8 yards per return.

• The Pack lead the RMAC and rank 18th nationally in punt returns with 15.4 yards per return. WR Kevin Ribarich leads the RMAC (17th in nation) with 15 yards per punt return. 

#PACKPROS: CSU-Pueblo has three former players in the NFL right now. Ryan Jensen (2009-12) is in his sixth season  and first with Tampa Bay after five with the Baltimore Ravens. After a breakout season where he started all 16 games at center for the Ravens, Jensen inked the largest contract for a center in NFL history. Mike Pennel (2013) is in his fifth overall season and second with the New York Jets. Morgan Fox (2012-15) moved from the practice squad to active roster in 2016 and was on the active roster all of the 2017 season with the Los Angeles Rams. Unfortunately, Fox suffered a knee injury during OTAs and will miss the 2018 season. Darius Allen (2011-14) is currently with the Canadian Football league's Edmonton Eskimos. Pennel, Fox and Allen all play on the defensive line. 

VS. RANKED SQUADS: CSU-Pueblo owns a 18-7 (11-4 at home) record versus ranked opponents (Division II) since 2011. The ThunderWolves went 6-0 versus the nation's top 25 in 2014 and also added a 47-21 win against Sam Houston State (No. 15) to record the team's first-ever victory against a ranked FCS team. The Pack went 4-1 against ranked opponents in 2015 and had won 10 straight against the nation's best before the loss to Grand Valley State. The Pack recorded the program's second win against a team ranked No. 1 in the AFCA poll when it posted a 23-13 road win at Texas A&M-Commerce Sept. 22. The first time came when CSU-Pueblo won the 2014 NCAA Division II National Championship by the score of 13-0 against Minnesota State University, Mankato.

STREAKS: 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.

The Pack recorded 28 consecutive regular season home victories from a 66-0 win against New Mexico Highlands Oct. 30, 2010 to a 51-20 win against Colorado Mesa Nov. 7, 2015. 

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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.