Story and photo courtesy of Colorado State-Pueblo Athletics
PUEBLO, Colo. - Riding a dominating performance from its defense, CSU-Pueblo accomplished one of its final program goals Saturday - winning playoff games - as it rolled to a 28-7 win over the University of Indianapolis and claimed the first playoff win in program history.
The ThunderWolves' defense held the Greyhounds to just 214 yards of total offense, forced three turnovers and controlled the time of possession almost 2-to-1 to claim the historic win after a disappointing loss in its lone playoff game in the 2011 postseason.
"In the postseason you are going to get everyone's best shot," said Head Coach John Wristen. "I was really excited about the way that our guys came out played."
With the game tied 7-7 and the ThunderWolves offense struggling to put points on the board, the Pack defense came up with back-to-back turnovers, one inside the Greyhound 20-yard line, to spring the offense into motion.
Following the interception by Beldy Nseka (Sr., Denver, Colo.), Cameron McDondle (Fr., Littleton, Colo.) ran in from 11 yards for his second of three touchdowns on the day in his first ever playoff game, giving the Pack a 14-7 lead.
"I felt like I came in and filled the shoes of our first two running backs," said McDondle, who carried the majority load in the second half. McDondle finished with 110 yards on the ground and three rushing touchdowns.
The ThunderWolves were ready to break the scoreless tie in the first quarter as they marched down to the Greyhound one-yard line. But Ross Dausin (Sr., San Antonio, Texas) lost his helmet on the attempt to dive for the end zone on the third-down forcing him to sit out a play. Wristen gambled and brought in backup quarterback Troy Graham (Sr., Chandler, Ariz.) for the fourth-down attempt, and on his lone play of the day, he fumbled the snap, halting the 96-yard drive.
"We felt like we were in control in the first half, but sometimes when you are in control you can feel it slipping through your hands a little bit," said Wristen. "I wanted to make sure our guys didn't press because when you start pressing you making mistakes."
Yet another missed opportunity hurt the Pack when Greg O'Donnell (RFr., Monument, Colo.) missed a 44-yard field goal attempt wide left. Fortunately, the defense was firing on all cylinders forcing a three-and-out to get the ball back into the hands of the offense.
Finally, the ThunderWolves managed to get on the board when McDondle ran for a 4-yard score to give the Pack a 7-0 lead.
"We were able to wear them down a little bit make some plays," said Wristen. "We kept playing hard and it was a total team effort in my opinion."
Defensively the ThunderWolves kept the Greyhound offense from making plays until the final two minutes of the half. They answered the McDondle touchdown with an 82-yard, 12-play drive to tie the game at 7-7, where it stood at the half.
Before Indianapolis' half-ending drive, the Pack had held the Greyhounds to just 31 yards of total offense and just 12 plays.
In the fourth quarter, the defense continued to put the ball in the hands on the offense and the Pack put together a nice drive of 7 plays for 71 yards, capped by a McDondle touchdown run. The ThunderWolves scored on its last three possessions to end the Greyhounds season.
Advancing the quarterfinals, the Pack will have its biggest test of the season when West Texas A&M comes back to town after it downed 4th-ranked Ashland Saturday 33-28. For the second time in 2012, the Buffaloes and ThunderWolves will clash at The Neta and Eddie DeRose Thunderbowl and the Buffs will be looking to avenge an season-opening loss the Pack.
Tickets go on sale Monday at 8 a.m. for the Dec. 1 rematch. The game kicks off at noon.