Colorado State-Pueblo’s defense lived up to its advance billing and the ThunderWolves made the most of their scoring opportunities Saturday afternoon while defeating Chadron State 28-6 in the regular-season for both teams at storied Elliott Field in Chadron.
The victory allows Pueblo, now 9-2 overall and 9-1 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, to share first place in the league with Colorado Mesa. Chadron State finishes at 6-5 for the season and 6-4 and fourth place in the RMAC.
Pueblo’s physical and extremely active defense, which has been he stingiest in the RMAC most of the season, limited the Eagles to a season-low 226 total net yards and held the Chadron State offense scoreless. The Eagles got their touchdown midway in the third period when linebacker Tyler Lewis returned an interception 22 yards.
The Eagles began the game with a promising drive that took them from their own 35 to deep into Pueblo territory. It appeared they had scored when quarterback Dalton Holst passed to wide receiver Stevann Brownin the back of the end zone. To many it looked like a touchdown, but the referees ruled Brown was juggling the ball when he went out of bounds.
After Pueblo was assessed a five-yard penalty on the play for being off sides, the Eagles attempted a 36-yard field goal, but it was blocked by Tanner Draper and returned 30 yards by Jadon Garcia to the Chadron State 38.
A major penalty against the Eagles helped the ThunderWolves score in six plays. Tailback Marche Dennard went the final two yards after he’d ripped off 16 on his first carry of the game.
Pueblo moved ahead 14-0 early in the second quarter, when quarterback Rex Dausin sneaked the final yard after Dennard had runs of 11 and seven yards and Dausen completed a pair of passes totaling 26 yards. The drive covered 61 yards.
As the second quarter was winding down, the ThunderWolves mounted an 87-yard drive that began when Chadron State failed to pick up a first down at the Pueblo 13 by maybe only an inch.
After the Wolves picked up one first down, they had a fourth and eight at the CSC 28 and lined up as if they would punt. But the snap went directly to one of the protectors, Michael Wristen, a 6-4, 248 pound defensive end, who rumbled 31 yards to the CSC 41.
Pueblo needed eight more plays to reach the end zone. Ammon Johnson made a leaping grab of Dausin’s 13-yard pass for the TD with 39 seconds left before halftime. Mitchell Carter’s extra point made the score 21-0.
The ThunderWolves added their fourth TD on the opening possession of the second half by going 56 yards in five plays after Tevin Donnell had returned the kickoff 34 yards. The big-gainer was a 26-yard pass from Dausin to Kevin Ribarich before Dennard went the final five yards.
The Eagles uncorked their longest play, a 49-yard pass from Holst to Brandon Ferguson, on the ensuing possession, and drove to the Pueblo six before three passes fell incomplete. They decided to settle for a field goal, but it missed.
However, Lewis, who also returned a fumble 67 yards for a touchdown in the Eagles’ 35-14 win over Black Hills State the previous Saturday, picked off Dausin’s pass on the first play after Pueblo took over and ran untouched 26 yards to the end zone for what turned out to be CSC’s highlight.
Chadron State’s Steve Allen also swiped one of Dausin’s passes late in the third quarter.
Another gold star defensive performance was posted by CSC senior safety Brian Wood, who participated in 16 tackles, giving him 53 in the past four games.
With Dausin completing 15 of 27 passes for 159 yards and Dennard rushing 25 times for 110 yards to lead the way, Pueblo finished with 365 total net yards. After falling behind 14-0, the Eagles, pretty well abandoned their running game and finished with only 56 yards rushing. Holst completed 16 of 41 passes for 141 yards and, like Dausin, had two passes intercepted.
The game’s most astonishing statistic was Pueblo’s 21 penalties for 192 yards. The infractions accounted for half of Chadron State’s 18 first downs.
While coach John Wristen commended his team for playing well, particularly on defense, he noted the penalties “are something we’ll definitely need to fix if we get in the playoffs.”
A number of the penalties were assessed because of the Wolves’ over-aggressiveness on defense.
Chadron State coach Jay Long said he was disappointed the Eagles didn’t make more out of their offensive opportunities, but added, “We were beaten by a great team and the loss doesn’t take away from the strong effort our players put forth. Our guys played hard.”
The game was the last on the Elliott Field turf and in front of Don Beebe Stadium that has stood since 1929. Beginning this week, the stadium will be dismantled and replaced by an upgraded facility. Artificial surface will also replace grass on the gridiron.
First Downs 23 18
Total Net Yards 365 226
Rushes, Yards 49-206 18-56
Passing Yards 159 170
Passing 15-27-2 18-46-2
Return Yards 93 146
Punts, Average 5-36.0 4-43.2
Fumbles, Lost 0-0 1-1
Penalties, Yards 21-192 6-53
CSU-Pueblo 7 14 7 0 —-28
Chadron State 0 0 6 0 —–6
CSU-P—Marche Dennard 2 run (Mitchell Carter kick)
CSU-P—Rex Dausin 1 run (Carter kick)
CSU-P—Ammon Johnson 13 pass from Dausin (Carter kick)
CSU-P—Dennard 5 run (Carter kick)
CSC—Tyler Lewis 22 interception return (pass failed)
Rushing: CSU-P—Marche Dennard 25-110, Austin Micci 13-56, Michael Wristen 1-31, Rex Dausin 3-10, Josh Smith 4-2, Team 3-minus 3. CSC—Derek Jackson 11-42, Kevin Coy 3-7. TD Stein 2-7, Stevann Brown 1-3, Dalton Holst 1-minus 3.
Receiving: CSU-P—Ammon Johnson 7-59, Morgan Smith 3-47, Kevin Ribarich 3-37, Zach Boyd 1-12, Austin Micci 1-4. CSC—Jackson Dickerson 6-11, Tevon Wright 4-53, Colt Foster 4-34, Brandon Fullerton 3-63, Stevann Brown 1-9.