Black eyes. Bloody knuckles. Hurt feelings, a lot of cussing, and a list of infractions a mile long. For CSU-Pueblo and Adams State, it was a rivalry renewed in the first meeting in 24 years, and the two teams picked up where they left off in 1984 with a 16-8 slugfest win for the Grizzlies.
Adams State's visit to CSU-Pueblo was frought with back stories worthy of an episode of Grey's Anatomy - Six of the ThunderWolves' starters, including quarterback Bobby Washington (RSo., Colorado Springs, Colo.) and an all-American candidate in defensive end Chase Vaughn (Jr., Aurora, Colo.) fled Adams State following the close of the 2007 season, joining former Grizzly head coach, Wayne McGinn, now the Pack's offensive coordinator, in Pueblo.
And emotions were high - as a total of 10 personal fouls, seven on Adams and three on CSU-Pueblo - were assessed during the game.
But more than the emotion of what will be the Pack's biggest rivarly game for years to come was showdown between the Adams State offense and the CSU-Pueblo defense, one that the Pack seemed poised to win early on.
Adams State employed a strong offensive effort, moving the ball at will through the air in the first half and most of the game. But the Pack responded with a successful bend-but-don't-break defense, sacking Adams State quarterback Stephen Baca four times in the first half, including two by Vaughn, and blocking one field goal attempt while another Adams State field goal attempt went wide right, preserving a 0-0 score until halftime.
The ThunderWolves had a shaky game offensively, unable to create much positive yardage at all against the Adams State defense. After one half of play, the Pack only racked up 20 total yards compared to 120 by the Grizzlies, an aspect of the game the Pack had to address in the second half.
The Pack's lone offensive chance in the first half came off of trickery - a first quarter flea flicker revealed a wide open Aromous Robinson (So., Lakewood, Colo.) 30 yards downfield, but an overthrown ball stymied the Pack's first legitimate scoring chance.
But in the second half, the Pack started to committ a cavalcade of mistakes, leading to Adams State effectively taking control of the game.
The first big mistake happened right away - CSU-Pueblo's Brock Veasley (Fr., Aurora, Colo.) fumbled the opening kickoff, giving the Grizzlies possession at the Pack 37-yard-line, leading to the first touchdown of the game, a 4-yard touchdown on a wide receiver pass play from Josh Gibson to Jarison Johnson, giving Adams a 7-0 lead.
The Pack seemed to get a break near the close of the third quarter as Marco Macaluso recorded an interception at the CSU-Pueblo 7-yard line. But three plays into the drive, Washington was tackled in the end zone for an Adams State safety, giving the Grizzlies a 9-0 lead.
While the Pack kept trying to get something going offensively, the bottom fell out. First, a bad snap over the head of Washington led to a fumble return by Rocco Lorenzen, giving the Grizzlies a 16-0 lead.
Then on the ensuing kickoff, Veasley fumbled again, giving the Grizzlies another chance in the CSU-Pueblo end to pad their lead and effectively put the game away. Though the Grizzlies couldn't score, the Pack's backs were pinned against the wall.
The ThunderWolves got a shot of life when Washington connected on a 55-yard touchdown pass to Ayrius Justin (Jr., Inglewood, Calif.), followed by a two-point conversion pass from Washington to Koby Wittek (Fr., Golden, Colo.), putting the Pack within eight with 3:46 remaining.
The ThunderWolves' defense forced Adams State into a four and out, but the offense was unable to collect a first down, turning over the ball on downs and icing the Adams State victory.
The Pack's loss drops them to a 4-6 mark on their maiden 2008 season, the second best mark in NCAA Division II history of a team that has forged a football program with just one calendar year of preparation. The only other team to do better was the 1982 Valdosta State (Ga.) team, which went 5-5-1 in its first season before becoming a D-II national powerhouse.
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