On a rain-soaked night at Memorial Stadium in Commerce, Texas, the defending national champions and No. 1-ranked team in DII football was handed its first loss of the 2018 season. No. 22 Colorado State-Pueblo defeated the Lions 23-13 on the road.
For the ThunderWolves, the win was a much-needed one, coming off a loss to Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference rival Colorado School of Mines. For the Lions, it was their first loss in nearly a calendar year, last losing 47-42 to then-No. 10 Midwestern State.
The Pack is back
Last week, the ThunderWolves hosted the Orediggers in a good old-fashion RMAC rivalry. Colorado State-Pueblo, then ranked No. 9, was dominated in almost every facet of the game. The Pack's DII football top-ranked rushing attack was limited to just 112 yards, while the Mines offense countered with running back Cameron Mayberry who outrushed the ThunderWolves by 91 yards all by himself.
The victory saw Mines jump into the top 25, debuting at No. 17, while Colorado State-Pueblo plummeted to No. 22. The Pack had a daunting task to rebound, their next game a road test against the No. 1 team in DII football that had won its last 13 games. A loss would surely drop the ThunderWolves from the top 25.
After going down 10-0 in the first quarter, the ThunderWolves quickly regrouped and took control behind their top five rushing attack and tough, veteran defense. The running game combined for 217 yards, with four ThunderWolves running backs rushing for more than 30 yards, while the defense held the Lions to 41 yards rushing. The Pack took advantage of the wet conditions and cause four second-half fumbles, which helped secure the comeback and upset.
It was the ThunderWolves second victory over a No. 1-ranked school, the last time coming in the 2014 national championship game against Minnesota State. In both cases, the timing of the upsets couldn't have been more perfect.
Lions must quickly restore their road
The Lions loss is pivotal in the Lone Star Conference. Their LSC rival Midwestern State moved to 4-0 this weekend. Texas A&M-Commerce hosts Lock Haven in its final out-of-conference game this coming weekend, but then the Lions head to Wichita Falls, Texas in a showdown with the Mustangs that could very well decide the LSC.
With some new offensive linemen and a new face (or two) under center, there was no question that 2018 was going to see an adjustment period. The Lions impressively fought back on opening night and showed that they have the firepower to contend, so this shouldn't be seen as a tremendous setback.
The Lions have four losses in the last three seasons. All four of them have come to ranked teams, with two of them coming at the hands of Midwestern State. We know they can handle ranked teams, knocking one after the other off on the way to the 2017 championship. They will have to prove they can do it in the regular season if they want to have a chance to repeat.
A top 25 shakeup coming
The Lions weren't the only team to lose in the top 5. With the Central Oklahoma 31-21 upset over No. 4 Northwest Missouri, there are big changes coming to the top 25.