GREELEY — Football never felt so good for Chris Bonner.
Then again, it was pretty darn good for the rest of the Colorado State University-Pueblo ThunderWolves, too.
Bonner threw for 267 yards and three touchdowns as the ThunderWolves, ranked No. 8 nationally in Division II, upset Division I Northern Colorado 41-36 on Saturday at Nottingham Field.
The win ranks as one of the biggest in the history of football at CSU-Pueblo.
Not that Bonner would know, as he was making his first start for the ThunderWolves.
“I’ve never had this feeling after a game,” Bonner said. “I’ve been so anxious for this game since I got on campus and we’ve worked so hard all summer to get to this point.
“This is an amazing feeling.”
Bonner connected with Paul Browning, Josh Sandoval and Cameron McDondle for second-quarter scores and the Pack defense turned two interceptions into touchdowns.
“The kid threw for 267 yards and I bet you 200 of them were off play action,” Northern Colorado head coach Earnest Collins Jr. said. “When you bring a kid in like that and you name him the starter, he’s a good football player. I don’t know how he ended up there but they got a good one.”
The ThunderWolves (1-0) won for the first time in 14 meetings with Northern Colorado (1-1).
“This was a huge win for our team and a huge win for the city of Pueblo and our community,” CSU-Pueblo head coach John Wristen said. “Our guys kept battling, even when we got down. But we scored 28 points in the second quarter and we just kept battling.”
The Pack trailed 16-0 early and looked out of sorts. But when Bonner hit Browning with a 58-yard touchdown pass, it restored order, and confidence, with the ThunderWolves.
“The guys did a great job getting open and I was able to find the right guy most of the time,” Bonner said. “We thought we might have to match them score for score, and when we got down, we knew the offense had to get going.”
Browning finished with seven catches for 113 yards and quickly became Bonner’s favorite target.
Bonner’s other two touchdowns also came in the second quarter.
Those, and an 80-yard pick-6 interception return by Stephan Dickens, gave the Pack a 28-23 lead at the half.
UNC retook the lead midway through the third, but freshman safety LaRon Tarkington picked off yet another Seth Lobato pass and returned it 66 yards for a score.
That gave CSU-Pueblo a lead it would never relinquish.
McDondle added a 2-yard run midway through the fourth quarter and gave CSU-Pueblo a cushion that it would need.
“There were so many players and coaches who had such big parts in this win,” Wristen said. “We just found a way to get it done.”
CSU-Pueblo 41, Northern Colorado 36
CSU-Pueblo 0 28 6 7 — 41
N. Colorado 3 20 6 7 — 36
NoCo—FG Eden 33, 4:29.
NoCo—Jac.Davis 6 pass from Lobato (Eden kick), 13:36.
NoCo—Jac.Davis 5 pass from Lobato (kick blocked), 11:41.
CSUP—Browning 58 pass from Bonner (O’Donnell kick), 10:22.
CSUP—Dickens 80 interception return (O’Donnell kick), 6:37.
NoCo—Jac.Davis 26 pass from Lobato (Eden kick), 3:28.
CSUP—Sandoval 27 pass from Bonner (O’Donnell kick), 2:48.
CSUP—McDondle 17 pass from Bonner (O’Donnell kick), :06.
NoCo—Dennis 1 run (pass failed), 9:25.
CSUP—Tarkington 66 interception return (kick failed), 5:06.
CSUP—McDondle 2 run (O’Donnell kick), 8:13.
NoCo—Dennis 16 run (Eden kick), 6:42.
First downs 20 25
Rushes-yards 32-115 33-107
Passing 267 390
Comp-Att-Int 20-36-1 29-45-2
Return Yards 142 5
Punts-Avg. 5-46.4 4-43.3
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 6-57 3-30
Time of Possession 23:52 36:08
RUSHING—CSU-Pueblo, McDondle 15-69, Ashe 10-41, Duncan 2-17, Team 2-(minus 4), Bonner 3-(minus 8). N. Colorado, Dennis 26-102, Graham 2-5, Lobato 5-0.
PASSING—CSU-Pueblo, Bonner 20-36-1-267. N. Colorado, Lobato 29-45-2-390.
RECEIVING—CSU-Pueblo, Browning 7-113, Sandoval 4-57, Thornton 3-31, McDondle 3-24, Duncan 1-27, Cooper 1-12, McArthur 1-3. N. Colorado, Jac.Davis 12-156, Wilbers 6-85, Jefferson 5-100, Stimphil 2-21, Dennis 2-12, Graham 1-9, Vander Velde 1-7.
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