The Colorado State football team said it was tired of being called rival CU’s “little brother.” They did something about it Friday night.
Behind 139 yards and two touchdowns from junior running back Dee Hart, CSU erased an early 10-0 deficit and rolled to a 31-17 victory over rival Colorado at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in the 86th edition of the Rocky Mountain Showdown. Against a Buffs team that many considered to be physically superior, Colorado State’s young offensive line asserted itself as a force to be reckoned with, paving the way for 266 total rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns.
Hart, a transfer from Alabama, showed exactly why he was one of the top-rated high school running backs in the class of 2011 by repeatedly running over, around and through multiple Buffs defenders. Hart and junior college transfer Treyous Jarrells (17 carries, 121 yards, 1 TD) formed a “thunder and lightning” 1-2 punch that gave the Colorado defense fits all night.
However, as CSU head coach Jim McElwain pointed out, the beginning and the end of this matchup were two completely different stories.
Led by sophomore quarterback Sefo Liufau, the Buffs jumped out to an early 7-0 lead on a 54-yard touchdown pass from Liufau to junior wide receiver Nelson Spruce with 10:31 to play in the first quarter. Following the Colorado scoring drive, the Rams offense sputtered, failing to cross the 50-yard line for the entire first 15 minutes.
After another long Colorado drive deep into Rams’ territory, the Colorado State defense stood tall, stuffing Colorado’s rushing attack on three consecutive downs to force a 23-yard field goal from Will Oliver. Despite giving up the points, a small amount of moment swung to the Colorado State sideline after that defensive stop.
“We got off to a slow start, which drove me nuts,” Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain said. “But we kind of restored order after that.”
“That just swings the pendulum of momentum, you know?” redshirt freshman center Jake Bennett said. “We know our defense can do that on a consistent basis, so when they do, we know we have to help them out and getting a score.
Trailing 10-0 and teetering on the edge of being blown out, the Rams responded with their first significant drive of the night which was capped off with the first of Hart’s two touchdown runs to cut the lead to 10-7.
“We told ourselves we were going to face a lot of adversity in this game,” Hart said. “Going down seven points was a big blow and losing Ty (Sambrailo) made things kind of shaky at first. But we pulled it together. In that second half we came out and took care of business.”
After receiving the second half kickoff, it looked as though the Rams would take their first lead when they rolled into CU territory with just over 13 minutes remaining in the third quarter. But after scrambling out of the pocket, senior quarterback Garrett Grayson was sacked by Colorado defensive end Derek McCartney and gave up the only turnover of the game when he fumbled.
Colorado immediately capitalized on the change in momentum, going 62 yards in nine plays and capping it off with a 12-yard pass from Liufau to Spruce yet again.
But instead of crumbling under the pressure, the Rams immediately responded with a drive of their own that ended with Jarrells punching it in from three yards out to bring it within 17-14.
It looked as though the Buffs would drive right back down the field again, but the CSU defense stood tall and forced a punt.
That would be the last time Colorado posed a serious offensive threat for the rest of the night.
Pinned at their own eight-yard line, Hart, Jarrells and Grayson led a 12-play, 92-yard drive that culminated in a 16-yard touchdown from Grayson to Rashard Higgins on a well-timed fade route in the corner of the end zone to put CSU up 21-17.
From there, the Rams fed off of a raucous Colorado State student section and forced consecutive three-and-outs sandwiched between another touchdown run from Hart and a 52-yard field goal from “Kicker,” also known as senior Jared Roberts.
And as the clock hit zeroes on the Sports Authority Field Jumbotron, Colorado State players and coaches celebrated with each other before making a bee-line for the north end zone where their ecstatic fans had already begun the celebration.
CSU was “little brother” no more.
Final Score: Colorado State 31, Colorado 17
Photos by Austin Simpson
Collegian Sports Editor Keegan Pope can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @kpopecollegian.