PUEBLO, Colo. (Oct. 10, 2018) - The No. 14 Colorado State University-Pueblo football team finishes the regular season with four of five road games, starting with a trip to Grand Junction, Colorado to battle Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference rival Colorado Mesa University. The contest has been selected as an NCAA Division II Showcase Game.
NCAA DIVISION II SHOWCASE - HOW TO WATCH
Division II Twitter
@NCAADII on Periscope app
• The CSU-Pueblo football program and Head Coach John Wristen recorded their 100th victory since the restart of the program in 2008. In that span, Wristen owns a 100-24 all-time record. The .806 percentage ranks second among active NCAA Division II coaches.
• The Pack rank No. 14 in the AFCA poll after last week's 48-3 victory against New Mexico Highlands. The ThunderWolves own a 5-1 overall record and a 4-1 mark in RMAC play.
• The Pack close the regular season with four of five games on the road, starting with Colorado Mesa.
• The Mavericks are 4-2 overall with a 3-2 RMAC record.
• Colorado Mesa is the only team in the RMAC the ThunderWolves don't have an all-time winning record against. The Mavericks own the sight advantage of 18-17-5 in a series that dates back to 1939.
• Since the restart, the Pack are 7-3 against CMU, which includes a 3-2 road record.
• Last season at the ThunderBowl, CSU-Pueblo won 30-24 in a matchup where the Pack were ranked No. 17 and the Mavericks were No. 8. In that win, the ThunderWolves trailed 24-20 heading to the fourth quarter, but early in the frame Marché Dennard found the end zone from 16 yards out to put the home team ahead 27-24. Midway through the fourth a fumble forced by Brandon Payer and recovered by Deyon Sizer set up a field goal that finished the scoring 30-24.
• The Pack lost 20-19 in 2016 in Grand Junction. In that game, it was again the road team with a lead heading into the fourth, as the ThunderWolves were ahead 16-6. CMU scored two touchdowns and led 20-19 with three minutes left. The Pack marched down to the one-yard-line, but were denied the touchdown as time expired to fall by one point.
SCOUTING THE PACK
• In Saturday's win, New Mexico Highlands took the opening kickoff and drove 66 yards on 13 plays, which ate up the first 4:57 of game time, but had to settle for a 21-yard field goal to lead 3-0 in the first quarter. For the rest of the game (62 offensive plays), the Pack held the Cowboys to 127 yards of offense.
• CSU-Pueblo recorded 48 unanswered points, 35 of which came in the second half.
• The defense allowed 97 yards rushing and 96 yards passing to a team that was averaging 424 yards per game of offense and had been putting up 35.4 points per game.
• CSU-Pueblo finished with four takeaways, which included three interceptions. The Pack now rank second in Division II in turnovers gained (19), fourth in interceptions (11), seventh in team passing efficiency defense (91.5) and eighth in fumbles recovered (8).
• The Pack collected also 12.0 tackles for loss (-34 yards) and now rank No. 3 in NCAA Division II in team tackles for loss (10.2 TFL per game).
• After missing the last six quarters, senior RB Marché Dennard returned to the lineup in a big way. He scored the Pack's lone touchdown in the first half (29 yards) and had 44 yards at the break. The senior would finish with a career-high 213 yards and three touchdowns on just 14 carries to pull a 15.2 yards per carry average. His long run was a 51-yard score in the third to put the Pack ahead 27-3. Dennard's second touchdown also came in the third quarter and went for 35 yards.
• With 9.5 yards per carry this season, Dennard leads all of NCAA Division II. He is 14th in rushing yards per game (117.6 ypg) and 15th in rushing TDs with eight.
• The Pack rank 9th in rushing with 276.5 yards per game.
• Senior ILB Brandon Payer leads the RMAC and sits 3rd in DII with 2.3 tackles for loss per game (13.5 TFL). He is second in the conference in tackles with 10.0 tackles per game (60 tackles).
• Senior DE Michael Wristen has a team-high 5.0 sacks (-25 yards). He ranks second in the RMAC with 0.83 sacks per game.
SCOUTING COLORADO MESA
• The Mavericks are sixth in the RMAC standings with a 3-2 league record and are 4-2 overall.
• CMU had lost two straight before going to Durango, Colorado and defeating Fort Lewis 31-24. The road team was ahead 31-14 after an early fourth quarter touchdown, but FLC would score 10 points in 1:04 of game clock and get within a score, 31-24, with six minutes left. The Mavericks secured the win with an interception in the final seconds.
• Despite starting quarterback WR Eystin Salum not playing in the second half, Colorado Mesa threw for 321 yards and on the season are averaging 283.7 yards per game through the air to rank 4th in the league and 22nd nationally.
• As a team the Mavericks totaled 500 yards of offense and are 19th in Division II in total offense with 468.2 yards per game.
• WR Peter Anderson has been the top target, as his 760 yards (126.7 ypg) leads the RMAC and ranks 3rd in NCAA Division II.
• Salum's 290 yards per game of total offense is good or 22nd nationally.
• CMU had its best defensive effort of the season, allowing 305 yards and totaling three interceptions. The team has seven interceptions this season to rank fourth in the RMAC. LB Tom Saager leads the team with 51 tackles (21 solo).
• 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 and currently are back at No. 14 in the AFCA and No. 13 in 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).
• Since 2008, CSU-Pueblo is undefeated when scoring 35 or more points (54-0) and when allowing 10 points or less (40-0).
• Since 2008, the ThunderWolves are 55-11 (.833) at the ThunderBowl.
• The ThunderWolves have eight scoring plays of 65-yards or more and own eight scoring drives of 75 yards or more.
• The ThunderWolves have scored first in four of the first six games this season (3-1) and since 2008 own a 76-9 record when scoring first.
• 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 15 regular season games the team has allowed just 27 points in the final frame, dating back to Sept. 16, 2017.
CSU-PUEBLO POSITION NOTABLES
• 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 276.5 yards rushing per game, the ThunderWolves rank No. 9 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 588 yards on 62 carries with eight touchdowns. Austin Micci has also carried a load due to the injuries of Dennard and Bernard McDondle. Micci adds 390 yards (65 ypg) and five touchdowns. Finally, in three games, McDondle has 215 yards rushing (71.7 ypg) with three touchdowns and 74 yards receiving with a score.
• Dennard's 9.48 yards per carry ranks 1st in NCAA Division II. He sits 14th in yards per game (117.6), rushing TDs and 25th in rushing yards.
• RECORD WATCH: Bernard McDondle has 2,620 career rushing yards to rank 4th all-time at CSU-Pueblo. He is 921 yards shy of third. Dennard's 2,203 career rushing yards ranks 7th in program history.
• With 37.2 points per game, the ThunderWolves are fifth in the conference and 26th nationally 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 140.1, has thrown 64-for-109 (58.7%) for 923 yards and four touchdowns. He also has a rushing touchdown. Two of his touchdown strikes went for 68 yards, while he also has a 48 yard score. His one interception in 109 attempts was a desperation throw at the end of the Mines loss.
• Edwards' 14.4 passing yards per completion is third in the RMAC and 24th nationally.
• The Pack have thrown just two interceptions this season and rank 1st in the league and 7th 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 14 receptions for 239 yards and a score. In last two games, WR John Todd owns nine receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown. This season he has 14 receptions for 199 yards 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 9th nationally in rushing. CSU-Pueblo is 5th in the league in sacks allowed (2.2).
• 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.
• By allowing 264.5 yards per game the ThunderWolves lead the RMAC and rank 11th nationally in total defense.
• With 15.3 points per game allowed the ThunderWolves are 1st in the league and 10th in DII.
• CSU-Pueblo hasn't hesitated in creating turnovers and with 11 interceptions (3 against DSU and NMHU) and eight fumbles recovered (four against Texas A&M-Commerce) the Pack rank 2nd nationally in turnovers gained. The interception total sits 4th nationally, while the fumbles recovered number is 8th.
• 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.
• Rosenbrock also has two fumble recoveries to tie for the conference lead rank T-5th in DII.
• 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 a team-best four interceptions and a team-high eight pass break-ups. With 12 passes defended (2.0 per game), Taylor leads the RMAC and ranks 5th nationally.
• RECORD WATCH: Williams and Taylor each have 14 career interceptions to rank 4th all-time at CSU-Pueblo. They are two picks from tying for 2nd. Stephan Dickens (2010-14) has the record with 19.
• 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 is 2nd in the RMAC and 25th nationally with 108.7 yards per game allowed.
• The Pack recorded seven sacks against DSU and compiled 15 tackles for loss. CSU-Pueblo has totaled at least eight TFL in each game this season and with 61 total (-206 yards) ranks 3rd nationally in tackles for loss (10.2 TFLpg).
• 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 is 2nd in the RMAC with 60 tackles (28 solo) and adds 13.5 tackles for loss (-23 yards) that ranks 1st in the RMAC. The 2.3 tackles for loss per game is good for 3rd in Division II.
• RECORD WATCH: Payer has 337 tackles in his career, which is 12 shy of the modern era program record of 349 by Lee Meisner (2008-11). In all the program's history, Payer is 4th. With 46.5 career tackles for loss, the senior ranks third all-time behind Darius Allen's (2011-14) 59.0 and Morgan Fox's (2012-15) 49.5 tackles for loss.
• DE Michael Wristen finished with 2.5 sacks (-16 yards) against Dixie State and leads the team in the category with 5.0 (-25 yards), which is good for T-2nd in the RMAC. He totaled 3.5 sacks in all of 2017.
• CSU-Pueblo is 1st in the league and 12th in DII in red zone defense. The ThunderWolves have allowed six scores (4 TDs, 3 FGs) in the red zone in 11 opponent attempts (63.6%).
• The Pack are 2nd in the RMAC and 25th in the nation in 3rd down conversion defense, as they allow their opponents to convert 30 percent of the time.
• The ThunderWolves lead the league in passing efficiency defense (91.45), which is good for 7th nationally, and in passing yards allowed (167.8).
• The Pack had four blocked kicks last year and this season have got their hands on a punt, an extra point attempt and a FG attempt, as Tanner Draper blocked a 27-yard FG 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 17th in Division II. On the flip side, CSU-Pueblo has allowed just one block in the first six games.
• K Mitchell Carter was 55-for-56 on extra points in his first season with the Pack and is 28-for-28 this season. He is 9-for-13 on field goal attempts. Carter leads the RMAC in field goals made, while his 1.5 FG per game is 4th nationally. He is 8-for-9 from 39 yards and in with his long coming from 44 yards against New Mexico Highlands.
• With 55 points, Carter is first among RMAC kickers and is 7th in the conference (22nd nationally) in scoring. His point total is a team-best that ranks 17th in DII.
• The ThunderWolves lead the RMAC and sit 14th in Division II in net punting (38.89 yards), while P Tanner Cuda's 44.0 yards per punt ranks 6th nationally and 2nd in the league.
• In 36 attempts, Cuda has booted nine punts more than 50 yards with his long settling at 70 yards. He has landed 17 punts inside the 20 and recorded four touchbacks.
• CSU-Pueblo ranks 2nd in the league in kickoff return defense, as it allows 18.36 yards per return.
• The Pack are 2nd in the RMAC in punt returns with 11.73 yards per return.
• WR Kevin Ribarich is 2nd in the RMAC with 11.4 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.
– 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.