Shaquil Barrett isn’t a fan of hot Showers.
The CSU linebacker knew something had to be done, so he took matters into his own hands — literally. UTEP quarterback Jameill Showers was tearing apart the Rams’ defense one throw at a time in the second half of Saturday’s game and showed no signs of stopping until Barrett halted him dead in his tracks.
The Miners entered halftime trailing 28-7, but whichever adjustment Showers made in the locker room proved to be unbelievably effective.
Showers recognized that the CSU secondary had slowly been inching itself forward in the first half, figuring out that he would be able to exploit the defense with the long-ball. So Showers started making it rain, throwing bomb after bomb for big-yardage touchdown passes until the 21-point cushion the Rams had built was completely depleted.
Showers had racked up 122 yards and two touchdowns on a mere three plays that took only 48 seconds off the clock. It was at this point Barrett decided that enough was enough, making the one play that changed the rest of the entire game.
Showers was given the ball near his own end zone with an opportunity to put UTEP at its first lead of the game. Full of confidence and with momentum on his side, he took the snap and dropped back in the pocket only to be greeted by any quarterback’s worst nightmare.
“We needed somebody to step up and make a play. On defense, I love to lead by example so I just put the weight on my shoulders to get the defense going and the whole team going,” Barrett said.
Metaphorically the weight was placed on Barrett’s shoulders, but in actuality, the weight was shot into the spine of the UTEP quarterback.
Standing at six feet-two inches, Barrett threw all 250 pounds of force into Showers’ blindside for arguably the biggest hit the CSU defense has produced all season. The sack shook the concrete stands of Hughes Stadium, the football immediately flew out of Showers’ hands and from then on, his stride was irreparably broken.
Barrett came up huge when CSU needed it most, awakening the crowd into the loudest roar at Hughes in 2013. The forced fumble resulted in a safety, snapping the Miners’ 21 unanswered point-streak, putting the Rams back in front and bringing both the CSU defense and offense back to life.
From that play on, the Rams tallied 31 more on the board, good enough for CSU’s highest scoring game since 1996.
“It was a total difference, our momentum shifted a lot. Everybody was back in the game, everybody was focused, everybody had a lot of energy — a lot more energy than they had from the previous series,” Barrett said.
Along with quarterback Garrett Grayson and running back Kapri Bibbs, Barrett had his best performance of the season on Saturday. He ended the game with 13 total tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles.
However the most important aspect Barrett was credited for was creating the game changer CSU so desperately needed.
Showers was scalding hot. Barrett was the one who turned the handle and brought the temperature back down.
Sports Editor Quentin Sickafoose can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @QSickafoose.