Big plays early lift No. 15 ThunderWolves to 48-22 Homecoming win

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PUEBLO, Colo. - The No. 15 Colorado State University-Pueblo football team scored 28 points in the first quarter with three 40-plus yard scores to guide the ThunderWolves to a 48-22 Homecoming win against Colorado Mesa University in a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference contest Saturday at the Neta and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl.

The Pack (6-1, 5-1 RMAC) scored in all three phases of the game in the first quarter to jump out to a big lead.

On the second offensive play of the game, sophomore quarterback Gunnar Lamphere (So., Aurora, Colo.) ran 40 yards on a designed run play to the end zone for an early 7-0 lead. After Maverick (3-4, 3-3 RMAC) penalties and the CSU-Pueblo defense forced the road team to punt from their own end zone, the ThunderWolves took over at the CMU 33 yard line for their second drive. Three plays later, running back D.J. Penick (Jr., Evanston, Ill.) rushed 21 yards to the house for his first of two touchdowns on the day. The score handed the Pack a 14-0 lead just six minutes into the contest.

With 4:15 remaining in the first, punter Justin Dwinell (R-Fr., Colorado Springs, Colo.) couldn't handle a snap and was forced to scoop up the ball at his own 20 with multiple Mavericks coming after him. Dwinell, a dual sport athlete with the CSU-Pueblo track and field team, scrambled to the opposite sideline looking for a first down. He got the first and more, as holes opened up in front of him and he finished the 80-yard run to give the ThunderWolves a 21-0 advantage. The score marked the second time in as many weeks the Pack scored on special teams.

On the next Colorado Mesa drive, senior safety Jamaal Sears (Surprise, Ariz.) brought in an interception for the second straight game and this time returned it 61 yards to the house and the home team was rolling with a 28-0 lead and 2:38 still left to play in the opening quarter.

The Pack added a Mitchell Carter (Jr., K, Colorado Springs, Colo.) 19-yard field goal with 12 minutes to play until halftime to open a 31-0 advantage before CMU scored to make it 31-6 at the break.

CSU-Pueblo took the second half kick and ate up 4:07 of game clock with a 10-play, 75-yard drive to the end zone. Penick capped off the drive with a 12-yard run and a Carter extra point pushed the lead to 38-6.

CMU came back with a 16 straight points to finish the third trailing 38-22, but a 10-0 fourth quarter by the ThunderWolves closed the door on a potential comeback. A Carter 39-yard field goal and running back Nick Bingham's (So., El Paso, Texas) first career touchdown as a member of the ThunderWolves were the scores, while the defense held their opponent scoreless in the fourth for the fourth straight game and fifth time this season. The Pack defense has allowed just 13 points in the final frame in 2019.

The ThunderWolves finished with exactly 500 yards of offense, which included 50 rush attempts to 354 yards. The Pack recorded 7.1 yards per rush, guided by 105 yards on 11 carries (9.5 yards per carry) by Penick. He also got in the pass game and had a 25-yard connection with tight end Nicholas Albertini (So., Yorba Linda, Calif.). Senior running back Austin Micci (Colorado Springs, Colo.) added 53 yards on the ground to move into fifth all-time at CSU-Pueblo for career rushing yards with 2,589.

The Pack defense grabbed two interceptions with five sacks (-25 yards). The ThunderWolves held the Mavericks to 239 total yards and just 72 rushing.

Back-to-back winner of the RMAC Defensive Player of the Week award, senior outside linebacker James Maxie (Parker, Colo.) lived up to the hype and again led the team with 12 tackles (five solo). He added 1.5 sacks that pushed the Mavericks back eight yards.

Senior defensive end Jackson Wibbels (Colorado Springs, Colo.) was big again up front and produced nine tackles (three solo) with 1.5 sacks (-10 yards). Inside linebackers Kyle Rosenbrock (Sr., Brush, Colo.) and Max Gonzales (So., Aurora, Colo.) had nine and seven tackles, respectfully, while Rosenbrock added a half sack (-2 yards).

Junior linebacker Luke Conilogue (Jr., Erie, Colo.) closed the game with the other interception and returned it 24 yards with just a minute to play. The Pack then went into victory formation and celebrated their perfect 12-0 record on Homecoming since restarting the program in 2008.

CSU-Pueblo stays at the friendly confines of the ThunderBowl Oct. 26 when they welcome Adams State University (4-3, 4-3 RMAC) for a 2 p.m. kickoff.