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Colorado State-Pueblo: mission accomplished

2014 Division II Football

Wide receiver Paul Browning of Colorado State-Pueblo scored the ThunderWolves’ only touchdown in their 13-0 victory over Minnesota State Mankato. JUSTIN TAFOYA / NCAA PHOTOS

When Colorado State University-Pueblo, then known as the University of Southern Colorado, dropped the sport of football in 1984 as part of cost cutting in the athletics department, a day like Dec. 20, 2014, was unfathomable.

Flash forward 30 years, and the ThunderWolves’ completion of a restoration project that began in 2008 culminated with winning the NCAA Division II Football Championship with a 13-0 victory over Minnesota State University, Mankato, in Kansas City, Missouri.

One of the people the accomplishment meant the most to was Colorado State-Pueblo coach John Wristen, who played quarterback at the school in the 1980s before the program was discontinued.

Wristen reflected on the days that included hiring a staff and convincing prospective players that they could reach their academic and athletic goals in the ThunderWolves program.

“In teaching and coaching, you never get to start something from scratch,” an emotional Wristen said. “I wanted to be part of bringing something special to Pueblo, Colorado. I don’t know if there’s a secret recipe or anything that’s been done special. We just put our head down and go to work. We’re a blue-collar town, a steel mill town in Pueblo.”

The ThunderWolves posted the first shutout in the Division II championship game since 1997 by limiting Minnesota State Mankato to 265 yards of total offense, which is 195 yards below the Mavericks’ average. Minnesota State Mankato also entered the game averaging 42.9 points a game.

The Results

2014 Division II Football

Colorado St. -Pueblo 13, Minnesota State Mankato 0

Colorado St.-Pueblo 10, West Georgia 7
Minnesota State Mankato 47, Concord 13

Joseph Shultz, Colorado St.-Pueblo

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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.