CHADRON, Neb. - The playing surface at Elliott Field in Chadron, Neb. Saturday was muddy and filthy.
And the game taking place on the field between 19th-ranked Chadron State and 5th-ranked CSU-Pueblo certainly followed suit.
In a wacky matchup that featured a total of 33 penalties for more than 300 yards between the two teams, which negated 1,208 yards of combined total offense from both teams, CSU-Pueblo largely held the lead throughout in a heated and emotional 51-42 win over the Eagles in Chadron.
In a game defined by equal parts gutsy performances and sloppy play, the Eagles drew first blood by driving 80 yards in 14 plays, culminating in a 1-yard touchdown rush by RMAC leading rusher, Glen Clinton, as Chadron State took a 7-0 lead, becoming the first team since Northern Colorado on Sept. 7 to take a lead on CSU-Pueblo.
CSU-Pueblo answered right back with a 9-play, 65-yard drive ending with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Paul Browning (Jr., Widefield, Colo.), tying the game at 7-7. But at the end of the score, Browning was flagged for taunting on the celebration, and it started the flood gates of a penalty-riddled game for both teams.
Teams traded scores until the Pack surged ahead on a bubble-screen-turned-touchdown pass from Chris Bonner (Jr., San Diego, Calif.) to Kieren Duncan (So., Goodyear, Ariz.), who ran the ball in from 59 yards out to put the Pack up 21-10.
Chadron drove in for a score with 21 seconds remaining in the first half to cut the Pack's lead to 21-16, but CSU-Pueblo needed just one play to make it a two-score game as Bonner threw a bomb to Duncan from 70 yards out to put the ThunderWolves up 28-16 at halftime.
After a ho-hum third quarter that saw each team add field goals, a wacky fourth quarter got underway, beginning with a 70-yard fumble return by Darius Allen (Jr., Pueblo, Colo.) for a touchdown, breaking a 30-year-old record held by Dan DeRose by just one yard, putting the Pack up 38-19.
Both teams would trade scores with Chadron State making things interesting following an 84-yard pass from Jonn McLain to Nathan Ross, bringing the Eagles within 10, 44-34, with 8:35 left.
After a Brandon Kliesen (Sr., Pueblo, Colo.) punt pinned the Eagles on the 2-yard-line, linebacker Ryan Cummings (Jr., Carson, Calif.) earned his second interception of the game, helping to set up a back-breaking touchdown run by Chris Ashe (So., Widefield, Colo.), who ran for a career-high 158 yards in the game, to put the Pack up 51-34 with 3:18 left in the game, all but icing the win for the Pack and preserving the eventual 51-42 victory.
With the victory, CSU-Pueblo moves to 6-0, winning its 32nd consecutive game and its 26th straight Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference game, one away from tying Chadron State's RMAC streak of 27 wins from 2006-09. The Pack also secured its first win over a ranked opponent this season in defeating the 19th-ranked Eagles.
The ThunderWolves will return home next week to face Colorado School of Mines at the Neta & Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl.