PUEBLO, Colo. – After trailing 21-3 early in the first half of its battle with conference rival Chadron State, No. 2 CSU-Pueblo persevered with a thrilling 45-38 overtime win in its homecoming showdown, increasing its regular-season winning streak to a national-best 21 in the process.
The Pack stumbled out the gate, falling behind 14-0 before even gathering a first down. Senior corner back Mark Sterling shifted the momentum back in favor of the ThunderWolves when he jumped an Eagle route and intercepted Chadron quarterback John McLain late in the first quarter.
Though the Pack was able to finally put points on the board after the Sterling interception, it wasn’t a touchdown. After a 49-yard rush by J.B. Mathews, quarterback Ross Dausin’s 3rd-and-goal pass at the Chadron 7-yard line flew through the hands of Pack receiver Marcial Williamson and the ThunderWolves settled for a field goal, cutting the lead to 14-3.
CSU-Pueblo continued to have trouble jumping back into the game, but finally turned it into a one-score game as Dausin snuck in for a 1-yard score right before halftime to cut the Chadron lead to 21-16.
Coming out of halftime, the Eagles offense didn’t miss a beat, putting another seven points up only 1:30 into the third quarter. But the Pack quickly answered with a score of their own as Mathews ran 32-yards to make the score 28-23.
Mathews had strong performance with 176 yards and a touchdown, but was forced to leave the game with a foot injury mid-way through the third quarter. Fortunately enough for the Pack, freshman running back Cameron McDondle was able to step in and pick up where Mathews left off.
“We were kind of beat up at the running back position,” head coach John Wristen said. “That young freshman came in and was able to make some good things happen, so it was nice to see him come in and have some success.”
McDondle carried the load of the running game most of the fourth quarter and came up two yards shy of his first 100-yard game, ending with 98 yards and two scores.
“This was a huge win for us. It’s our red-letter game,” McDondle said. “We knew we needed to go out there and get a win. If there is any team that we need to beat, it’s Chadron, and we did that. Everyone was pumped up and ready to go.”
Though the running game seemed to be business-as-usual, compiling 312 yards on the ground, Dausin had uncharacteristic struggles behind center, especially at key points in the game. Driving for a score after the game was tied at 31, he threw an interception in the end zone that would have given the Pack a fourth-quarter lead. Instead, it gave the Eagles a chance to take a lead of their own.
Behind its solid running game, which also gained nearly 300 yards, Chadron State drove down the field, culminating in a 47-yard touchdown run by Michael Madkins that put the Eagles up 38-31 with 6:46 left in the game.
Dausin hit Roger Pfannenschmid three times on slant routes over the middle during a game-tying drive, running it in himself on the quarterback sneak with 1:16 left in regulation to force the overtime.
In the overtime period, the Pack got the first chance with the ball, scoring a touchdown to give the ThunderWolves its first lead of the game 45-38 and ultimately the win.
“It is really a mark of our foundation,” Wristen said. “I really believe if your foundation is dug deep, you are able to weather the storm and there were a number of storms during the game that we were able to overcome out there today.”
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