Sep 19, 2010 1:13 AM
PUEBLO, Colo. With a sparkling defensive effort and stellar special teams play, the CSU-PuebloThunderWolves were able to open RMAC play with a decisive 27-10 victory over Adams State Saturday night.
The first half proved to be a defensive merry-go-round with each team exchanging positions constantly throughout the half. Both defenses were stout, only giving up a field goal apiece after one half of play.
The Pack passing game struggled, gaining only 34 yards the first half, even having a long would-be touchdown reception axed because of a penalty. Pack head coach John Wristen had to tell his team to put the lackluster half in perspective and move on.
"I just told the guys to mentally flush the half down the toilet," he said.
The comment seemed to spark the ThunderWolves, especially on special teams. To begin the second half, Marquise Enoch (Sr., Denver, Colo.) returned the opening kickoff 97 yards and taking it to the house, outrunning would-be tacklers in a sideline sprint, putting the Pack up 10-3.
"We practiced (setting up special teams) this whole week to make the defense pursue the inside of the kickoff coverage to open up the sidelines," Enoch said.
"The blocking was so good that even I could have run that one back," head coach John Wristen quipped about Enoch's return.
The Pack netted more kickoff return yards against Adams State (99) than in its previous two games combined. The unit is finally starting to fire on all cylinders, Enoch said.
"We had been slouching the previous two games (on special teams) and this week we practiced hard to make sure we were strong in that part of the game," Enoch said.
Late in the third quarter, linebacker Damon Schiele (So., Aurora, Colo.) picked off Grizzlies' quarterback Trevor Eggleston attempted screen pass and returned the interception 39 yards for a touchdown.
Up 17-3, the Pack finally got their offense rolling when running back Jesse Lewis (Jr., Loveland, Colo.) broke through on an 18-yard-run to extend the lead 24-3.
The ThunderWolves' defense was relentless throughout the game, only giving up a vanity fourth quarter touchdown after the final outcome was all but decided.
The cornerback pairing of Grant Crunkleton (Sr., Denver, Colo.) and Chris Brown (Sr., Aurora, Colo.) shined by intercepting the Grizzles three times inside the 10-yard-line on probable touchdown throws. Brown recorded two picks, each inside the five-yard line, and Crunkleton added a fourth quarter interception. All told, the duo had their hands in on six Grizzly passes, picking off three.
"On offense we have to manage the game, but tonight we just weren't sharp, and the defense picked us up," Wristen said.
The Pack added to their lead with a late fourth quarter field goal by kicker Kyle Major, to put them up for good 27-10.
This win marks the first time the ThunderWolves have started 3-0 since 1980, which is also the only time they have won an RMAC championship.
"It feels good to be 3-0 rather than 0-3," Wristen said about the start of the season.
Next week the ThunderWolves travel to Fort Lewis, who opened up their RMAC schedule Saturday with at 30-27 win over Western New Mexico. The Pack will be gunning for a 4-0 start as homecoming looms Oct. 2 vs. Chadron State.