Matchup: On Saturday at 6:30 P.M. Eastern Time, the University of West Georgia Wolves will play the Colorado State University-Pueblo ThunderWolves at DeRose ThunderBowl in Pueblo, CO in the semifinals of the NCAA Division-II football playoffs. Entering the playoffs the ThunderWolves were No. 6 in the final regular season D2Football poll. The Wolves were No. 22.
CSUP finished the regular season 10-1, and were the winners of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. The ThunderWolves had a first round bye, then defeated Angelo State 52-14. Last weekend they narrowly beat No. 8 Ohio Dominion, 31-28, to advance to the semi-finals.
The Wolves finished 9-2 in the regular season, winning the Gulf South Conference. In the first round of the playoffs they narrowly defeated Tuskegee 20-17. The following week Delta State fell 37-27 to UWG. Last weekend the Wolves got even for a 40-6 defeat they suffered early in the season to Valdosta State University, downing them 31-17.
Colorado State-Pueblo Offense vs. West Georgia Defense
Colorado State-Pueblo Offense: 37.0 points per game, 186.0 yards rushing per game, 232.7 yards passing per game.
West Georgia Defense: 18.5 points allowed per game, 144.9 yards rushing allowed per game, 193.0 yards passing allowed per game.
Junior running back Cameron McDondle leads this offense. The 5-8, 196 pound back has rushed for 1825 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has very careful with the ball, fumbling just twice in 286 attempts, and has an outstanding 6.4 yards per carry average. His backup is junior J.B. Matthews who sees limited action, gaining 401 yards with 3 TDs.
Senior quarterback Chris Bonner has passed for 2943 yards with 28 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He is very smart, and incredibly poised. What makes Bonner so dangerous is that he has no primary target. Nine players caught at least 14 passes. Junior Kieran Duncan had 41 catches for 657 yards and 3 touchdowns. Paul Browning made 33 catches for 524 yards and 5 TDs. Jarred Radebaugh made 32 receptions and led the team with 6 touchdowns. For defenses, there is no keying on one receiver.
The ThunderWolves offensive line is very young, with just two sophomores and the rest being freshmen. Despite the inexperience, this is a group that has good size and they play well together. They have matured quickly and gelled together to be a very solid group.
The Wolves get a lot of pressure from their front seven. They recorded 44 sacks, and have 19 interceptions and 15 fumble recoveries.
The leader of this group is linebacker Tyrell Adams. The 6-2, 225 pound senior always seem to be around the ball. He has 2 sacks and 2 interceptions, and leads the team with 87 tackles. DE Darius Caldwell leads the Wolves with 12 sacks and he is third in tackles. Tory Slater (7) and Alex Armah (6) are also quality pass rushers. Carlos Hutton leads the team in interceptions with 4.
West Georgia Offense vs. Colorado State-Pueblo Defense
West Georgia Offense: 33.0 points per game, 231.6 yards per game rushing, 172.2 yards per game passing.
Colorado State-Pueblo Defense: 14.2 points allowed per game, 100.8 yards rushing allowed per game, 193.1 yards passing allowed per game.
Seth Hinsley is the leader of this offense, rushing for 1359 yards and 15 touchdowns. The 5-10, 224 pound senior is incredibly tough to bring down, and he is quite durable, rushing for 241 yards. Four other players have rushed for at least 351 yards, including QB Dallas Dickey (414) and Brandon Lucas (418).
Dickey is the team’s quarterback, and as his 414 yards rushing shows, he is a dual threat player. The Wolves QB has 1816 yards passing with 16 touchdowns and 8 interceptions.
Three players made at least 32 catches, led by Shaq Hall who has 52 receptions for 739 yards and 5 TDs. Earvin Amunqba has 32 catches for 467 yards, and Alex Macaulay adds 39 for 459. Both have 4 TDs.
CSUP has a defense that is quite formidable. They have playmakers at all levels of the defense, and they generally control the play. As a unit they have recorded 47 sacks, 14 fumble recoveries, and picked off 28 passes.
LB Joe Rosenbrock leads the team with 90 tackles, and he is smart and a natural leader. Rosenbrock is joined by sophomore Seth Brown and senior Josiah Flack to form one of the better linebacking groups in Division-II football. Cornerbacks Stephan Dickens and C.J. Roberts lead the team with 7 interceptions each. They are difficult to throw against, and team with Jarrod Lucy and LaRon Tarkington to form an outstanding secondary.
Morgan Fox has 11 sacks this season and Darius Allen has 12. The two are unbelievably talented and absolutely relentless in the way they pursue the quarterback.
Coaches: John Wristen vs. Will Hall
Coach Wristen is in his seventh season as the head coach at Colorado State University-Pueblo. He was hired in 2007 to build a football program from scratch. The ThunderWolves had not fielded a football team since 1984, and Coach Wristen was called upon to do so. After going 4-6 his first season, the team has had a winning record every season since, and he was the 2011 Coach of the Year.
Coach Hall is in his first season as the head coach of the University of West Georgia. He served three years in the same position at the University of West Alabama before moving to UWG. Coach Hall led UWA to their first ever playoff appearance in 2010.
Outlook: This has been quite a run that the Wolves have been on. They have won three playoff games already and have come together as a team just at the right time. Colorado State University-Pueblo has playmakers on both sides of the ball, and they are just the better team. The University of West Georgia has put together quite a run, but it is coming to an end. Take the ThunderWolves 45-21.
By Robert Pannier