PUEBLO, Colo. - The No. 10 Colorado State University-Pueblo football team celebrated 16 seniors by defeating Western Colorado University, 34-7, Saturday at the Neta and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl. The ThunderWolves finished the regular season 10-1 overall and 9-1 in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play.
The win handed the Pack their eighth straight win and allowed them to reach 10 victories for the sixth time in the last nine years.
CSU-Pueblo totaled 329 yards and allowed 250 yards. The home team totaled 183 yards passing and 146 yards on the ground. The ThunderWolves allowed the Mountaineers (5-6, 5-5 RMAC) just 38 yards on the ground on 37 attempts. The Pack totaled three interceptions and recovered two fumbles, while having just in turnover on their end. The +4 turnover margin moved the team's regular season turnover margin to an impressive +21. Second best in the conference finished with a +7 margin.
Quarterback Jordan Kitna (R-So., Dallas, Texas) threw for three touchdowns after chucking four last week. He went 19-for-30 (63.3%) for 183 yards. All three scores went to tight ends, as junior Preston Guerra (Peoria, Ariz.) caught two passes for touchdowns and finished with three receptions for 16 yards. The other score went to sophomore Nicolas Albertini (Yorba Linda, Calif.) on a 13-yard play. Kitna's top target was junior Dionte Sykes (WR, Chandler, Ariz.), who finished with four receptions for 45 yards. Junior running back D.J. Penick (Evanston, Ill.) only carried the ball four times, but totaled a team-best 66 yards (16.5 yards per carry). He also had three receptions for eight yards.
The team's top three tackles were seniors. Inside linebacker Kyle Rosenbrock (Brush, Colo.) led the team with 14 tackles (2 solo). Outside linebacker James Maxie (Parker, Colo.) added 11 tackles (two solo) with a tackle for loss and a half sack. Defensive back Amu Aukusitino (Anchorage, Alaska) added eight tackles (six solo) with 1.5 tackles for loss, a half sack and two breakups.
Senior corner Emery Taylor (Aurora, Colo.) broke the school's career interception record and finished with five tackles (three solo) and two breakups. He returned the interception 74 yards to the end zone to give CSU-Pueblo its second pick six of the game and eighth this season.
The other pick six came at the hands of a senior, as Tevin Donnell (DB, Fountain, Colo.) returned an interception 17 yards to the paint in the second quarter. He finished with three tackles (two solo), three breakups and a half tackle for loss.
In keeping with the seniors balling out theme, defensive end Jackson Wibbels (Colorado Springs, Colo.) added to his team-leading sack total with a strip sack that was recovered by the ThunderWolves. He finished with five tackles (two solo) and two tackles for loss, which included the sack.
Senior Isaiah Diggs (WR, Federal, Wash.) had another big return game, as he totaled 70 yards on four returns with a long of 38 yards. Punter Justin Dwinell (R-Fr., Colorado Springs, Colo.) averaged 40.4 yards per punt on his seven kicks. He landed five inside the 20 and booted a long of 52 yards.
After a scoreless first quarter, the first Kitna-Guerra connection came with 5:33 left in the second quarter from nine yards out to cap a five-play, 61-yard drive.
About three minutes later, Donnell reeled in a tipped pass and went 17 yards for the score. A missed extra point moved the score to 13-0.
With just one second left on the second quarter clock, Western Colorado found its way into the end zone from one yard out to cut the Pack lead to 13-7 heading into halftime.
The ThunderWolves didn't score again until 1:49 remaining in the third quarter when Kitna found Albertini for 13 yards. The drive lasted 10 plays and 80 yards to hand the home team a 20-7 lead.
The Pack won the fourth quarter 14-0 with Kitna finding Guerra on a one-yard pass. Taylor's monster 74-yard return capped the game with the ThunderWolves winning, 34-7.
CSU-Pueblo will await the announcement by the NCAA tomorrow to learn their postseason plans. The ThunderWolves are the only one-loss team in Super Region Four and have been No. 4 in the last two regional rankings. Seeds two, three and four host the first round game, scheduled for Nov. 23. The NCAA Division II Playoffs Selection Show is slated for 3 p.m. MT on NCAA.com.