CSU-Pueblo smothers CSM
ThunderWolves off to first 6-0 start since 1980
PUEBLO, Colo. - With fanfare not seen since the ThunderWolves resurrected their football program to start the 2008 season, CSU-Pueblo put its best foot forward on national television Thursday, controlling the ground game and using a suffocating defense to defeat Colorado School of Mines 23-6, the program's first win against the Orediggers since 1983.
The victory puts the 11th-ranked ThunderWolves at 6-0 on the season and gives the Pack its first 6-0 start since 1980 - the last time it won the RMAC Championship.
In front of 9,447 fans, the second-largest crowd in school history, CSU-Pueblo's defense was stout. The ThunderWolves' defense, which gave up 541 yards of offense in the matchup last season, opened the game with a statement forcing the Orediggers to a three-and out allowing only seven yards.
The Pack took full advantage of the gift given by the defense and using a series of screens and runs drove down the field to the Oredigger four yard line. J.B. Mathews capped off the eight play 88-yard drive with a four-yard dash he pounded in through a slew of Mines defenders. With a missed extra-point, the Pack could only go up 6-0.
Mines couldn't cash in on several opportunities, including a missed field goal attempt, while the ThunderWolves tried to pile it on.
After a first down set up the Pack from the 25-yard line a broken play allowed Ross Dausin to scramble around the pocket only to find Mathews streaking down the left sideline. Dausin lobbed a pass over an Oredigger defender leaving Mathews with nothing but open space, capping off the drive with a three-play 75-yard touchdown.
Looking to put points on the board before the half ended, Mines moved their offense to a hurry up. The accelerated play helped move the chains all the way to the ThunderWolf one-yard line before the Pack defense stiffened and the drive stalled.
With the defense backed up against their own goal line, the Pack gritted their teeth and defended the end zone perfectly.
"We pride ourselves a lot about having a good scoring defense and this year our goal was to finish," Pack defensive end Grant Jansen said. "The defensive unit is so close. We're family and we'll do anything for each other."
Mines quarterback Clay Garcia's first attempt fell incomplete on a fade route to Jerrod Doucet before the drive really imploded. Garcia dropped back to pass on his second attempt before losing the ball on his wind up to throw. The loose ball bouced backwards before being recovered on the ThunderWolves 30-yard line to set up a fourth-and-goal.
Mines elected to go for it on fourth down but again Garcia coughed up the ball on a sack by Jansen that was eventually recovered by Louie Lozano to the 38-yard line.
The sack moved Jansen to the all-time sack leader in school history.
"It's a cool label but I don't really focus on the individual accomplishments, but more on the team," Jansen said.
With only 1:04 remaining in the half and three timeouts remaining there was still time for the Pack to add to their lead.
The team was able to drive into Oredigger territory to set up a 29-yard field goal by Major to take a 16-0 lead into half and leave visions of a fourth straight home shutout dancing in the defense's heads.
But the Orediggers finally established a drive after a couple of completed passes by Garcia and a series of rushes by Dan Palmer. Palmer punched in his tenth touchdown of the year from one-yard out to but the lead to 16-6. The Orediggers elected to go for two but the Palmer rush attempt was stopped a yard short.
The touchdown was the first points given up by the Pack all season at home and the first points scored since October 16 of last season.
Mathews finished the day with 226 total yards, 116 rushing and 110 yards receiving while also finishing with three total touchdowns. Jesse Lewis also rushed for more than 100 yards, finishing with 123 yards on 25 carries. It was the first time this season two runners ran for more than 100 yards in the same game and the first time Lewis and Mathews had done it together.
With his 216-yard breakout night in all-purpose yards, Mathews became the all-time leader in all-purpose yardage by a freshman.
"The running backs are always going to work as hard as were going to play and it's all about heart," Mathews said. "It's not just about us, it's about the team and us coming together and working as one."
The Pack controlled the clock throughout the fourth quarter using their vicious rushing attack, which racked up 247 yards on the day against a Mines defense that entered the game as the third-ranked unit against the rush in the nation.