Explosive plays have been deadly for the Rams in the first two games of the season.
After heading into the fourth quarter with a ten point lead Saturday at H.A. Chapman stadium in Tulsa, a 45-yard run by Golden Hurricane running back Trey Watts was the dagger in the Rams chances of getting the ball back or heading into overtime with both teams tied at 27. It was the run that helped set up a 34-yard last-second field goal by Tulsa kicker Carl Salazar in a 30-27 Tulsa win.
Saturday’s loss was the second game in a row that the Rams were unable to hold on to a fourth quarter lead. CSU lost a 24-23 lead in the season opener against CU-Boulder after a second explosive play by receiver Paul Richardson, a 74 yard touchdown, gave the Buffaloes a 14 point lead and the victory over CSU.
“We’ve given both games away. I can’t really say anything different,” CSU quarterback Garrett Grayson said. “We were moving the ball pretty much at will in the first three quarters and then we kind of stopped. We don’t have an explanation for it.”
Last week Grayson put the blame on himself for dropped passes, saying that the drops were a result of him not getting the ball to his receivers sooner.
On Saturday two missed catches resulted in turnovers for the Rams and Grayson finished 12 of 29 for 108 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
The same problems hampered the Rams for the second week in a row as the offense continued to struggle to convert third downs. Last week against CU the Rams were 2-of-14 on third down conversions and just 4-of-17 in Saturday’s loss at Tulsa. When they needed it most late in the game and the score tied, the Rams couldn’t come up with a first down and instead had to punt to Tulsa, ultimately giving the Golden Hurricane the final possession of the game.
“You have a chance to ice the game, grind it out, and it just didn’t happen. That’s disappointing,” CSU head coach Jim McElwain said.
Nine CSU penalties gave Tulsa 123 yards compared to five accepted Tulsa penalties that gave the Rams only 45.
What went right
It’s easy to pick out what went wrong in a loss, but multiple units played well for the Rams on Saturday. Last week McElwain said he wanted to get running back Chris Nwoke more involved in the run game after he had only 6 yards against CU. Nwoke rushed for 97 yards and one touchdown on Saturday. Running back Kapri Bibbs was also impressive, rushing for a career high 83 yards in his second game for the Rams.
Special teams continues to be a strength for the Rams despite the absence of receiver Joe Hansley (ankle) who had a 74-yard punt return for a touchdown in the season opener. A blocked punt by Danny Nwosu gave CSU the ball on the one yard line that lead to a touchdown pass from Grayson to tight end Joe McKay, his first career touchdown reception as a Ram.
“I like this team. I like who they are and what they are all about,” McElwain said. “That doesn’t help the Rams fans. Bottom line is that you’ve got to win.”
Football Beat Reporter Katie O’Keefe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org