“That was a relief, it really was,” head coach Jim McElwain said after the game. “I just can’t tell you how proud I am of this football team, (and) how proud I am of these seniors.”
After the first half produced just two field goals and a touchdown, both the CSU and Nevada offenses came out of the locker room with a renewed energy as both teams scored on each of their first two possessions of the third quarter.
The Rams were first to strike with a 28-yard touchdown run by running back Kapri Bibbs to give the Rams a 13-7 lead. Less than two minutes later Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo took it upon himself to put his team back in the lead with a 68-yard touchdown on third-and-2 to put Nevada up 14-13.
The Rams would give up one more score to the Wolf Pack on a 43-yard field goal by kicker Brent Zuzo with 1:54 left in the third quarter but then the game turned into the Kapri Bibbs show.
The CSU running back added to his impressive resume with a career best and CSU record 312 yards and four touchdowns to give him an NCAA leading 19 rushing touchdowns on the season. Bibbs ran for 259 yards and all four touchdowns in the second half and Saturday marked the fourth game in a row– and fifth of the season– that Bibbs ran for at least three touchdowns.
“(CSU’s) offensive line is really good, it’s really veteran,” said Nevada head coach Brian Polian. “The way that they’re able to run the ball was key.”
With the win, the Rams crushed any hope the Wolf Pack had of making it to a bowl game, while keeping their own bowl game dreams alive. This season marks the first time since 2004 that Nevada (3-7, 2-5 MW) will not be playing in the post season.
The Rams (5-5, 3-2 MW) need to win two of their three remaining games to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2008. Next week they will head to New Mexico to take on the Lobos.
QB Garrett Grayson: 20-27-1, 239 yards
RB Kapri Bibbs: 30 carries for 312 yards, 4 TD
WR Joe Hansley: 6 receptions for 63 yards
QB Cody Fajardo: 31-46, 247 yards, team high 87 yards rushing
WR Hasaan Henderson 10 receptions for 110 yards
The first half was a quiet one between CSU and Nevada with only 13 points scored between the two teams, and ten of which came in the final five minutes of the half.
Nevada won the toss to start the game and elected to receive. The Rams forced Nevada to punt and then put together a 54-yard drive that ended in a 23-yard field goal by kicker Jared Roberts to put the Rams up 3-0.
The next score didn’t come until there was 4:11 left in the first half. Nevada put together a 79-yard drive and running back Chris Solomon took a 1-yard dive into the end zone to give the Wolf Pack the lead. The Rams answered with a 46-yard field goal by Roberts with 1:30 left to go in the half.
Nevada tried to add another score with 4 seconds remaining, but kicker Brent Zuzo’s 54-yard field goal attempt fell short.
The Rams defense held duel-threat quarterback Cody Fajardo to just 6 yards rushing in the first half and 83 yards passing. CSU linebacker Shaq Barrett had one sack in the first half to bring his season total to 8.5.
First Half Stats:
QB Garrett Grayson: 13-18, 125 yards and 1 INT
RB Kari Bibbs: 52 yards
WR Joe Hansley: 5 receptions for 47 yards
QB Cody Fajardo: 12-16, 83 yards
RB Chris Solomon 21 yards, 1 TD
WR Hasaan Henderson 3 receptions for 35 yards
Football Beat Reporter Katie O’Keefe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.