No. 18 ThunderWolves travel to South Dakota to battle the Hardrockers

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PUEBLO, Colo. - The No. 18 Colorado State University-Pueblo football team returns to Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference action Oct. 5 at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology in Rapid City, S.D. Kickoff against the Hardrockers is scheduled for 1 p.m.

THE GAME

After a rebound win against then-No. 11 Texas A&M-Commerce, 24-17, at home Saturday, the ThunderWolves moved up from No. 20 to No. 18 in the AFCA poll. The Pack also moved up two spots in the D2Football.com poll from No. 16 to No. 14.

The Pack are 3-1 overall with a 2-1 RMAC record to sit among five teams with one loss in league play.

South Dakota Mines is 1-3 overall with an 0-3 mark in the RMAC. The Hardrockers are 0-2 at home, which includes falling to Dixie State University last week by the score of 28-16.

SDM&T was picked to finish sixth in the preseason coaches poll.

CSU-Pueblo is 3-0 against South Dakota Mines in their short history.

The Pack won 41-14 at home last season and in a road matchup in Rapid City, S.D. in 2017, the ThunderWolves were victorious, 34-14. CSU-Pueblo was home for the first meeting in 2016 and won 37-10 to give them a 112-38 (37.3-12.7) point margin advantage.

Last season the Pack had a balanced attack on offense with 214 yards rushing and 212 yards passing. Six different players had at least 20 yards rushing and seven players caught a pass. RB Austin Micci had 99 yards and a score receiving and 52 yards and a touchdown rushing.

On defense last season, the Pack totaled two interceptions. Of returners this season, S Jamaal Sears had six tackles (three solo) and ILB Kyle Rosenbrock added six tackles (two solo) with a tackle for loss and a forced fumble.

The Pack got up 17-0 in the first before allowing a Hardrocker touchdown. Two more touchdowns in the second quarter for the home team had the ThunderWolves ahead 31-7 at the break. CSU-Pueblo pushed the lead to 41-7 before allowing a fourth quarter touchdown.

LAST TIME OUT

The Pack improved to 3-1 overall with an important 24-17 region win against then-No. 11 Texas A&M-Commerce.

The Lions opened up a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter after a field goal in the first and the game's first touchdown in the second. Oddly enough, TAMUC started the game last year in Commerce with a 10-0 lead before the ThunderWolves battled back and won 23-13.

The Pack got on the board with 4:49 remaining in the half when Lamphere rushed for two yards to the paint to cap an eight-play, 43-yard drive.

With just 1:27 to work before the half, the Pack moved the ball 65 yards on six plays to set up a K Mitchell Carter 33-yard field goal with no time on the clock.

The Lions re-gained the lead midway though the third with a one-yard run into the end zone on fourth and goal from the half yard line.

On the next Pack drive, the momentum swing back the way of the home team, as RB Austin Micci found the end zone from a yard out to finish off an eight-play, 68-yard drive that tied the game.

S Tevin Donnell produced his first interception of the season at the Pack's own three yard line and returned it to the 21 yard line. On the ensuing drive, QB Gunnar Lamphere threw for 59 yards of a 12-play, 79-yard drive to the end zone. Lamphere and WR Nick Williams connected for 44 yards on the drive, which included a 15-yard touchdown strike.

The Lions didn't back down and had the ball for the final 7:13 of the game. TAMUC scored two touchdowns on the drive, but both were negated by penalties. The desperation pass at the end of the game was knocked down.

The teams were fairly even statistically across the board. The Lions ran six more plays and totaled just 11 more yards than the Pack (299-288). Both defenses held the run in check with the ThunderWolves leading in the category 69-54, while both teams charted five sacks.

In his first collegiate start, S Cory McLellan tied for the team lead with nine tackles (six solo) and had one break-up. Tevin Donnell moved from corner and started as safety and produced seven tackles (four solo) with a huge late third quarter interception that halted a TAMUC drive.

OLB James Maxie recorded nine tackles (three solo) with a tackle for loss (-3), while ILB Kyle Rosenbrock had eight tackles (two solo) and a half sack (-3 yards). OLB Trevor Philio continued to impress, as he recorded six tackles (four solo) with three tackles for loss (-13 yards) and two sacks (-11 yards) in his second straight start.

Lamphere came off the bench in the first quarter to replace an injured QB Jordan Kitna and went 14-for-25 for 191 yards and a touchdown and also gained 28 yards rushing (12 net yards) with a score.

Williams nearly posted back-to-back games with 100 yards, as he finished with 91 yards on five receptions, which included the game-winning touchdown with 11:20 remaining in regulation.

P Justin Dwinell earned RMAC Special Teams Player of the Week, as he had two 50-plus yard punts, which included a long of 61 yards. He also had four of his seven punts land inside the 20. He totaled 297 yards (42.4 ypp).

SCOUTING SOUTH DAKOTA MINES

The Hardrockers are 1-3 overall and 0-3 in RMAC play to sit second to last in the league standings. SDM&T are 0-2 at home with losses to Colorado Mesa (37-33) and Dixie State (28-16). The lone win came on the road at Simon Fraser by the score of 26-7.

The team is averaging 331.3 yards of offense and scoring 20.5 points per game and are allowing 439.8 yards and 24.8 points per game.

The Hardrocker defense leads the nation with five defensive touchdowns and have seven interceptions (12th nationally) and three fumbles recovered. Their 10 turnovers gained is tied for 1st in the RMAC and T-25th nationally. The team's 3.5 sacks per game is good for 2nd in the conference and 15th nationally.

SDM&T is 3rd in the RMAC and 20th nationally in punt return defense, allowing 2.43 yards per return. The team is 3rd in the league in kick return defense (18.5 ypr).

South Dakota Mines has the fewest penalties (19) and second fewest penalty yards (193) in the RMAC.

RB Ahmad Lewis averages 104.3 all-purpose yards per game to rank 6th in the RMAC. His 86 rushing yards per game is second in the RMAC, as is his 344 yards on the ground.

LB Cole Peterson has 47 tackles (21 solo) to sit 2nd in the RMAC and 8th in Division II. He has six tackles for loss.

DL Thomas Chapman is 2nd in the conference and 8th nationally with five sacks. His six tackles for loss sits third in the RMAC.

DB Dominick Jackson has three interceptions to rank 2nd in the RMAC and has returned two picks for scores.

THE POLLS

CSU-Pueblo finished 2018 ranked No. 7 in the AFCA and D2Football.com polls. The Pack. CSU-Pueblo entered the season No. 7 in the D2Football.com rankings and No. 9 by the AFCA. The team moved to No. 14 in the D2Football.com poll and No. 18 in the AFCA after the win against A&M-Commerce.

The Pack ranked in the AFCA top 25 for 66 consecutive polls ranging from Sept. 5, 2011 (21st) to Sept. 5, 2016 (19th).

The ThunderWolves ranked in the top 10 nationally for a then-NCAA Division II-best 37 straight weeks from Oct. 17, 2011 (eighth) to Oct. 6, 2014 (second).

TEAM NOTES

The CSU-Pueblo football program and Head Coach John Wristen recorded their 100th victory since the restart of the program in 2008 when they defeated New Mexico Highlands 48-3, Oct. 6, 2018. Wristen owns a 109-26 all-time record. The .807 percentage ranks 2nd among active NCAA Division II coaches (min 5 years).

Since 2008, CSU-Pueblo is undefeated when scoring 36 or more points (60-0) and when allowing 10 points or less (44-0). The Pack had done both in each of the final three games of the regular season last year and started 2019 meeting both stat lines.

Since 2008, the ThunderWolves are 57-12 (.826) at the ThunderBowl.

The Pack had won 15 straight at home from 2016-2018, which ranked as the second longest current home winning streak in NCAA Division II. CSU-Pueblo had that streak broken by Mines in the home opener.

The Pack have eight scoring drives of 75 yards or more, which includes a 12-play, 92-yard drive in the opener at Dixie State.

In the last 24 regular season games the ThunderWolves have allowed just 40 points in the fourth quarter, dating back to Sept. 16, 2017.

CSU-Pueblo clocked 40:17 of possession time in the opener and with 29:03 time of possession this season, the team ranks 5th in the RMAC.

The ThunderWolves are second in the RMAC for fewest penalties (23) and fewest penalty yards (234).

With only three turnovers lost, the Pack are tied for 1st in the conference and T-8th in Division II. CSU-Pueblo has thrown one interception and has two fumbles lost.

The Pack will play their five regular season road games in five different states (Utah, Nebraska, South Dakota, New Mexico and Colorado).

CSU-PUEBLO POSITION NOTABLES

OFFENSE

WR Dionte Sykes had a big debut for the Pack, as he brought in four receptions for 172 yards in the opener against Dixie State. He had receptions of 46, 50 and 70 yards and with the performance tied Paul Browning's 2013 performance of 172 receiving yards for the most receiving yards in a game since the restart in 2008.

He had 53 yards against Chadron State before suffering an injury. He owns 225 receiving yards this season, which is still 7th in the RMAC.

WR Nick Williams recorded 102 yards on six receptions against Mines for his first-career 100 yard game. He has 232 yards (8th in the RMAC) and a touchdown on 12 receptions.

RB D.J. Penick racked up 105 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries in his debut.

He owns a team-best 245 rushing yards to rank 6th in the RMAC. He has three rushing scores and averages 5.7 yards per carry.

QB Jordan Kitna made his Pack debut in the opener and went 9-for-18 (50%) with 261 yards and two rushing touchdowns. His three rushing scores this season ties for the team lead.

He has 666 passing yards to rank 5th in the RMAC, while his 16.24 yards per completion is good for 1st in the conference and 12th nationally. He owns 9.79 yards per pass attempt to also lead the RMAC and sit 9th nationally. His 731 yards of total offense is good for 5th in the league.

He is 41-for-68 (60.3%) for two touchdowns.

QB Gunnar Lamphere adds 257 yards on 20-for-34 (58.8%) passing with a touchdown.

With 15.26 yards per pass completion, the Pack rank 29th nationally and 2nd in the RMAC.

The team's 59.2 completion percentage is 2nd in the RMAC. The Pack's 142.8 team passing efficiency is also 2nd.

With 158.8 rushing yards per game, the ThunderWolves are 3rd in the RMAC.

CAREER WATCH: RB Austin Micci eclipsed the 2,000 career yards mark against Fort Lewis last season to become the 9th player in program history to reach the milestone. He owns 2,337 yards to rank 7th all-time. His 174 career points is good for a tie for eight all-time in total points.

DEFENSE

The Pack have been one of the most stingiest and unforgiving defenses in the nation the past eight seasons. Since 2011, the ThunderWolves have finished the season in the top 22 nationally in scoring defense, which includes leading the country in 2011 and 2014. CSU-Pueblo has also ranked in the top 21 in turnover ratio (or turnovers gained) in all but one season in that span with the nation's best mark in 2014 and in 2018.

Since 2008, the Pack have totaled 37 interception returns for a touchdown. The most in a season is five by the 2010, 2014 and 2017 squads.

CB Emery Taylor recorded a team-best seven interceptions and a team-high 15 pass break-ups last season and started the year off with the first pick of 2019 against DSU. He has one interception and one break-up this year.

RECORD WATCH: Taylor has 18 career interceptions to sit 2nd all-time at CSU-Pueblo. Stephan Dickens (2010-14) has the record with 19.

CSU-Pueblo's rushing defense was established on game one of the program re-boot in 2008. The Pack allowed 13 yards rushing against Oklahoma Panhandle State (Sept. 8, 2008) and since have held their opponent to less than 50 yards rushing on 22 more occasions.

Eight times since 2008 the ThunderWolves allowed 10 or less rushing yards, with the record standing at -11 yards this season at Black Hills State (previous record was -4 rushing yards at New Mexico Highlands Nov. 9, 2013).

In the opener, Dixie State was only able to muster 59 rushing yards on 23 attempts (2.6 ypc). The Pack are 3rd in the RMAC in rushing defense at 115.5 yards per game.

By allowing 339.8 yards per game the defense sits 3rd in the RMAC. The 19.8 points per game allowed is 4th.

ILB Kyle Rosenbrock leads the team with 35 tackles (15 solo). His 6.0 tackles for loss (-19 yards) is T-7th in the RMAC. Rosenbrock owns 2.5 sacks (-10 yards). OLB James Maxie adds 31 tackles (16 solo). OLB Trevor Philio leads the team with three sacks (-15 yards) and sits T-6th in the conference.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K Mitchell Carter is 5-for-7 on field goal attempts for 1.25 field goals per game, which is T-4th in the conference and T-26th in DII. He is 11-for-13 on extra points for 26 points, which leads the team and 13th in the conference.

Redshirt-freshman punter Justin Dwinell has taken over punting duties and has placed 10 of his 19 punts inside the 20. He averages 43 yards per kick to rank 2nd in the league and 12th in Division II. He has four 50+ yard punts and a long of 63 yards.

Dwinell was the key in the victory against A&M-Commerce and earned RMAC Special Teams Player of the Week. He had two 50-plus yard punts, which included a long of 61 yards that went out of bounds at the one yard line. He also had four of his seven punts land inside the 20. He totaled 297 yards for an average of 42.4 yards per punt. His efforts helped limit Lion returner Dominique Ramsey to two returns for 24 yards. Ramsey entered the game fourth in Division II in punt returns with 24.7 yards per return and was just one week removed from returning a punt 55 yards for a score.

The Pack are fourth in the RMAC with 10.7 yards per punt return.

WR Isaiah Diggs has returned eight punts and totaled 102 yards to average 12.8 yards per return, which ranks 2nd in the RMAC and 14th nationally.

#PACKPROS: CSU-Pueblo has three former players in the NFL right now. Ryan Jensen (2009-12) is in his seventh season and second with Tampa Bay after five with the Baltimore Ravens. After a breakout season where he started all 16 games at center for the Ravens, Jensen inked the largest contract for a center in NFL history when he signed with the Bucaneers. Morgan Fox (2012-15) moved from the practice squad to active roster in 2016 and was on the active roster all of the 2017 season with the Los Angeles Rams. Unfortunately, the defensive lineman suffered a knee injury during OTAs and missed the 2018 season. He returns to the active 53-man roster for 2019. Defensive lineman Deyon Sizer (2014-18) earned a spot on the Denver Broncos practice squad for 2019 after a successful rookie mini-camp tryout and summer with the team. Mike Pennel (2013) has five seasons of NFL experience (Green Bay, New York Jets), but was cut during camp in August by New England. Darius Allen (2011-14) is currently in his fourth season in the Canadian Football League. As of Sept. 6 he was on the BC Lions' 6-game injured list.

VS. RANKED SQUADS: CSU-Pueblo owns a 18-8 (11-4 at home) record versus ranked opponents (Division II) since 2011. The ThunderWolves went 6-0 versus the nation's top 25 in 2014 and also added a 47-21 win against Sam Houston State (No. 15) to record the team's first-ever victory against a ranked FCS team. The Pack went 4-1 against ranked opponents in 2015 and had won 10 straight against the nation's best before the loss to Grand Valley State. The Pack recorded the program's second win against a team ranked No. 1 in the AFCA poll when it posted a 23-13 road win at Texas A&M-Commerce Sept. 22, 2018. The first time came when CSU-Pueblo won the 2014 NCAA Division II National Championship by the score of 13-0 against Minnesota State.

STREAKS: CSU-Pueblo posted three straight 11-0 seasons entering 2014 and was just one of two teams in NCAA Division II history to accomplish the feat. After starting 5-0 in 2014, the Pack owned 42 straight regular season victories, which was the second-longest in NCAA Division II history, behind only Grand Valley State, which posted 48 straight wins from 2004-09. The streak ended Oct. 11 in a 23-22 road loss at Fort Lewis.

The Pack recorded 28 consecutive regular season home victories from a 66-0 win against New Mexico Highlands Oct. 30, 2010 to a 51-20 win against Colorado Mesa Nov. 7, 2015.