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CSU pulled out a historic victory over CU-Boulder Saturday afternoon in Denver, holding on for a 22-17 victory over its arch rival.
The game had its ups and downs for the Rams, who suffered multiple turnovers, untimely penalties and at times sloppy play, but managed to do just enough to get their first victory over the Buffs in three years.
“We did not play a good football game by any stretch of the imagination,” CSU coach Jim McElwain said. “At the end of the day, it was one game. And as excited as I excited as I was for them, they have to realize that we have a long long ways to go before I would consider us a decent ball squad.”
After giving up two CU touchdowns in its first two possessions of the second quarter, the Rams settled down defensively, getting pressure on new CU quarterback and Kansas transfer Jordan Webb.
After being stopped on third down late in the second quarter, the Rams punted to CU’s D.D. Goodson fumbled the ball at his own 20 yard line and CSU’s Trent Matthews recovered the fumble, setting up a 20-yard touchdown pass from CSU quarterback Garrett Grayson to Dominique Vinson.
The turnover with 0:33 to play in the first half gave CSU its first touchdown, and confidence going into the second half, despite the fact CU went into halftime still holding a 14-9 lead over the Rams.
“I don’t feel like it deflated our team by any means,” CU coach Jon Embree said of his team. “They were still (having) a good mindset going into halftime.”
The mistake by CU turned out to be a sign of things to come, as the next Rams possession would end in another Grayson touchdown pass after CU’s Parker Orms was penalized for executing a blow to the head on CSU’s Lou Greenwood, a penalty that put the Rams on CU’s 32-yard line.
Following the two touchdown passes, the Rams settled for two straight field goals, taking a 22-17 lead and giving CU an opportunity to win the game in the final 2:56. The final drive was halted by the Rams when CU’s Malcolm Creer could not get the final yard to convert a fourth-and-two with 54 seconds to play, sealing the game for CSU.
While both teams committed various mistakes throughout the game, it was the mistakes that weren’t made that made a difference for the Rams.
In his first season-opener for the CSU, Grayson went 14-for-21 for 173 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions.
The way he’s been able to shake off first-game jitters, according to Grayson, was the poise that he has gained with his football team throughout off-season practices.
“I’m more confident than I’ve ever been in my life,” Grayson said. “I told everybody before the game, I’ve been playing football since I’ve been four and I’ve never felt like I’ve had real brothers in my life and I go out there and I play for them and they’re all confident in me hopefully and I’m confident in them 100 percent.”
The Rams ended up with one turnover during the game, to CU’s two and 8 penalties for 89 yards compared with 7 for 60 for CU. But what matters at the end of the day for the Rams was the ability to grind out a tough season-opener and salvage the game.
“Don’t ever get caught up in the numbers,” McElwain said. “The number that counts is how you win, did you win the game? We could have had 700 yards of offense and lost, who cares right? So figure out a way to win the game and I think they did.”
The Rams will now come back to Fort Collins to face off against North Dakota State, a team that won the NCAA Division-I FCS Championship last season, and will serve as the home opener for CSU with kickoff scheduled for 5 p.m. MT.
Be sure to check out Tuesday’s edition of The Collegian for complete coverage of the Rocky Mountain Showdown
Football Beat Reporter Andrew Schaller can be reached at email@example.com.