Nationally Ranked Buffs and Thunderwolves Open 2014 Slate Under the Lights Thursday

CANYON – For the second time in three years, the No. 11/13 West Texas A&M football team opens the 2014 season under the lights at the Netta and Eddie DeRose Thunderbowl against No. 3/4 Colorado State-Pueblo.  The game is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT and will be televised on KCIT FOX-14 back to the Amarillo/Canyon area.
THE SERIES - CSUP leads the all-time series 2-1, including a 26-24 win in Canyon on Sept. 1, 2011, and a 44-34 win on Aug. 30, 2012, in Pueblo.  WT responded with a thrilling 34-16 win in Pueblo on Dec. 1, 2012,  knocking the previously unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Thunderwolves from the playoffs in the NCAA National Quarterfinal.
CALLING THE GAME - This season the Buffs will have a new play-by-play team for road games on KCIT FOX-14 as Clint Brakebill and former Buffalo wide receiver Charly Martin will call the action.  Martin played for WT from 2004-2008 and leads the school record book in pass receptions (244) and receiving yards (4,108).  Martin then had stints in the NFL with Seattle, San Diego, Carolina and San Francisco.  For links of
JACK FM - In 2014, the Buffs also will have a new radio partner in Townsquare Media and 98.7 KPRF “Jack FM.”  With the new partnership, the Buffs have the opportunity to put more sports on the air along with football and basketball.  Neil Horn and Brice Sheets are still calling the action of every home-and-away football game for the Buffs this season.
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME - Links to live stats, streaming and media information can be found on on the football schedule page.
HISTORIC 2012 & 2013 SEASONS - Continuing the theme of historic seasons, the Buffs put together back-to-back two of the best seasons in school history in 2012 and 2013.  The team went a combined 23-6 with NCAA National Quarterfinal appearances in both seasons and a National Semifinal appearance in 2012.  In 2013, then-senior quarterback Dustin Vaughan threw for 5,401 yards and 53 touchdown passes as he was the only quarterback in any division to pass for over 5,000 yards with the 5,401 yards being a Division II record.  The 53 touchdown passes were the third-most all-time in Division II.  He was the 2013 Harlon Hill runner-up and earned First Team AFCA All-America accolades.   
·         Be the second consecutive season the Buffs have started the season with a win on the road
·         Improve WT to 47-56 all-time in season-openers
·         Beat a top five-ranked CSU-Pueblo team on the road for the second-straight time (No. 1, 2012)
·         Even the series with CSUP at 2-2
·         Would be Coach Mike Nesbitt’s 12th win at the helm of the Buffs
·         Would be the first since 1946 for the Buffs on Sept. 4
·         Snap the Thunderwolves’ 37-game regular season winning streak
ON THIS DAY - WT is 0-3 all-time on Sept. 4 since 1946.  The Buffs most recently played on Sept. 4 at East Central (Okla.) in 2004, falling 13-6.  They also have played on Sept. 4 in 1982 and 1999.  WT is 0-2 on the road on Sept. 4 and 0-1 at home.
BUFFS SECOND IN PRESEASON LSC POLL - The Buffs were picked second in the 2014 preseason LSC poll which was released at Media day back in July.  Tarleton State was picked first, followed by the Buffs. 
THE COACHES - West Texas A&M head coach Mike Nesbitt begins his second season at the helm of the program as he took over Aug. 21, 2013.  Nesbitt was the interim head coach all of last season and was elevated to head coach in December following the season.  He is 11-3 in his career as a head coach.  CSU-Pueblo head coach John Wristen is 54-15 for the Thunderwolves and was the 2011 National Coach of the Year by American Football Monthly magazine.  He has double-digit wins in the last three seasons and has suffered one defeat each of the past three seasons with trips to the NCAA playoffs each year.
NFL UPDATE - The Buffs had 15 players in summer camp on NFL teams and the 15 were than 55 FBS programs including the likes of Colorado (14), Houston (14), Texas Tech (14), Indiana (13), Wake Forest (11), BYU (10), Duke (10, Kansas (10), Washington State (10) and Minnesota (8), to name a few.  WT has nine players (seven in 2013) over the last two years on NFL teams.  The 15 players are tied with Iowa State and Northwestern.  As of Monday, Sept. 1, Khiry Robinson (New Orleans), Bryan Braman (Philadelphia), Eugene Sims and Ethan Westbrooks (St. Louis) and Dustin Vaughan (Dallas) made the 53-man rosters.  Brittan Golden (Arizona), Bryan Johnson (Buffalo) and Torrence Allen and Craig Watts (San Diego) are members of the practice squad.  Nathan Slaughter (Jacksonville) is on injured reserve.
BUFFS IN THE POLLS - WT is ranked 11th in the preseason AFCA Coaches’ Poll and 13th in the preseason poll.  Entering the 2014 season, WT was picked ninth in SportingNews and just outside the top 10 in Lindy’s.  Dave Campbell picked the Buffs second in the LSC behind Tarleton State in his 2014 Texas Football Magazine.  They also are preseason No. 10 in the Bennett Ranking.  
DECEMBER FOOTBALL - WT has played 11 games in December or later since 1946 and is 8-3 in those games and 6-3 in games in December alone.  The Buffs played two games in December in 2012 defeating Colorado State-Pueblo 34-13 on Dec. 1, and losing 41-18 to Winston-Salem State on Dec. 8, and lost 35-28 at Grand Valley State in 2013.
BUFFS SEVENTH TRIP TO THE NCAA TOURNAMENT - WT is 8-7 all-time in the NCAA Tournament in seven appearances in the past nine years.  WT has made the postseason each of the last nine years, including two wins in the Kanza Bowl (2009, 2011). The Buffs’ first NCAA Tournament win came in 2006 with a 30-27 home, overtime win over Abilene Christian, followed by a 43-17 loss at Chadron State in the second round after a home defeat in 2005 to Pittsburg State (Kan.).  WT defeated Washburn (Kan.) at home 49-39, in 2007 and followed with a 56-28 loss at Northwest Missouri State.  In 2008, the Buffs downed Central Washington in a 49-42 thriller at Kimbrough, followed by the NCAA record-shattering 93-68 loss at Abilene Christian.  WT then lost 55-35 at Central Missouri in the NCAA Tournament in 2010.  Last season WT went 3-1 in the NCAA playoffs as it reached the National Semifinals for the first time in school history with wins at No. 3-seed Chadron State (38-30), at No. 2-seed Ashland (33-28) and No. 1-seed Colorado State-Pueblo (34-16), before falling 41-18 at NCAA runner-up Winston-Salem State.  Through 2013, the Buffs are 3-1 at home in the NCAA Tournament and 5-6 on the road.
GETTING THE RETURN AND THE FIRST - WT led the nation in kick return average last season at 28.3 yard per return. Then-senior Nathan Slaughter also led the nation in kick returns individually as he averaged 36.1 yards per return.  The Buffs also led the nation in first downs with 367. 
LOTS OF NEW FACES - The Buffs have a lot of new faces entering 2014 as the team graduated 27 seniors last season.  The coaching staff recruited well in the off season and has brought in some really good players both at the junior college/transfer and high school levels. 
IN DEPTH - The initial depth chart features a nice blend of experienced and new talent heading into the season opener.  Behind center, junior Preston Rabb takes the controls from the most prolific quarterback in school history in Dustin Vaughan who threw for 5,401 yards and 53 touchdown passes last season.  Behind him is sophomore Jared Cate and junior transfer Conner Smith (Colorado State).  In the backfield, the Buffs have two Division I transfers in Venric Mark (Northwestern) and Derrick Thomas (Boise State), along with junior Geremy Alridge-Mitchell who had 518 yards on the ground with six touchdowns last season.  The receiving corps is probably the most experienced position offensively as four starters from last season return in senior Anthony Johnson (1,294 yds., 87 rec., 14 TD), along with senior Jeremy Watson and juniors Jarrian Rhone and Word Hudson.  Transfer Xavier Amey has made an immediate presence for the Buffs at wide out.  The offensive line is anchored by sophomore Austin Carson who started every game as a redshirt freshman in 2013, along with a number of talented new players.  Defensively along the front, the Buffs look to sophomore returner LaPier Willrich and juniors Jacob Laguna and Alex Tucci.  The linebacker position features returning all-conference player sophomore Patric Youngman, along with redshirt freshman Carter James, sophomore Alex Olson and senior transfer Markus Pierce-Brewster (Syracuse).  The secondary is probably the most experienced position defensively with senior all-conference selection Torian Oakley leading the way.  Oakley had 44 tackles and two interceptions last season.  Also returning are juniors Ethan Morriss and Anthony Hayes, along with sophomore Will Toliver.  Special Teams took the biggest hit losing All-American and Fred Mitchell Award winner Sergio Castillo who set the NCAA Division II record for points by a kicker with 437.  He went 24-30 in field goals and 77 of 78 in extra points.  Also graduated is all-conference punter Kevin VanVoris who had 48 punts for a 45.2 average and averaged 61.7 yards per kickoff. 
OPEN WITH THE RMAC - The Buffs open the 2014 slate facing a team from the RMAC for the fourth consecutive season.  WT is 32-9 all-time against current RMAC football schools.  In 2012 and 2013, the Buffs went 5-1 against RMAC teams.
WT winningest programs in texas - The Buffs are 80-18 in regular season games from 2005-2013 and leads all Division I and Division II programs in Texas in terms of winning percentage.  WT also has gone to the postseason all nine years and is the only team to accomplish that feat.  TCU is 82-25 during the past nine years and has gone to eight bowl games.  Midwestern State is third at 73-22.
A LOOK AT COLORADO STATE-PUEBLO - The Thunderwolves, picked first in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, have arguably one of their best teams in school history returning following an 11-1 campaign last season.  CSUP had 11 players named to the All-RMAC Preseason Teams, including preseason RMAC Offensive Player of the Year and Harlon Hill candidate in quarterback Chris Bonner and Gene Upshaw Award winner (2013) and preseason RMAC Defensive Player of the Year in Darius Allen.  CSUP has won three-straight RMAC titles, while winning 37-straight regular season games which is second-most in NCAA Division II history behind Grand Valley State which was 48-straight from 2004-2009.  Offensively, Bonner threw for 3,413 yards (11th NCAA) and 33 touchdowns (7th NCAA) last season earning all-America honors.  Wide receiver Paul Browning also returns after collecting 1,155 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns.  The Pack returns seven starters from the offense, which includes running back Cameron McDondle and four off the offensive line.  Defensively, the Pack is led by Allen who won the Gene Upshaw Award and seven starters on defense.  Allen led the nation in total sacks with 15.5, while his 23.5 tackles for loss ranked him third nationally.  CSUP ranked in the top 25 nationally in 10 defensive categories, including turnovers gained (3rd), fumble recoveries (4th), 3rd down conversion defense (7th), sacks (8th), red zone defense (13th), passes intercepted (14th), rushing defense (21st), turnover margin (21st), scoring defense (22nd) and team tackles for loss (23rd).  On Special Teams, CSUP will need to replace punter Brandon Kliesen who finished 2013 as the nation’s second-ranked punter at a 45.3 average.  Placekicker Greg O’Donnell returns as he was 19th in field goals per game (1.2) and 34th in scoring at 8.7 points per game last season. 

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