(Video by Patrick Enslow and Travis Green, CTV11)
A 46-yard field goal by Jared Roberts as time expired was the difference Saturday night.
Colorado State (6-1, 2-1 MW) topped Utah State (4-3, 1-1 MW) by a score of 16-13 in front of a sold-out crowd of 32,546 at Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins.
In a defensive battle riddled with penalties, CSU found just enough offense in the final minutes to set up Roberts’ game winner. The Rams took over from their own 12-yard line with 58 seconds left and after an 11-yard first down run by junior running back Dee Hart, the Rams went into their “Mayday” hurry-up offense.
“It’s a planned deal we work every week where once we get it up over the 30 we feel like we have got a chance to maybe take a shot,” CSU head coach Jim McElwain said.
Grayson kneeled the ball between the hashes at the 24-yard line. Utah State took two consecutive timeouts in an attempt to ice the senior kicker, but it was to no avail as Roberts calmly knocked it through the uprights to give the Rams their fifth-consecutive win.
“You are always nervous, especially in a game of this magnitude,” Roberts said of the kick. “But knowing that its just sitting there with one kick to keep this climb going, you just want to hit it for your teammates, for the University, for the fans and everyone else involved.”
It looked as though the Rams offense would continue its hot streak early in the game when Grayson found Higgins on a pitch and catch that went for 69 yards on the first play from scrimmage to set up a one-yard touchdown from Hart.
Utah State answered quickly when running back Joe Hill took a delayed draw 59 yards to the house with 9:57 to play in the first quarter. It would turn out to be the last touchdown of the evening.
Both defenses repeatedly came up with big stops, with each team punting the ball seven times. CSU linebacker Max Morgan also came up with an interception.
A big hit by linebacker Kevin Davis took Utah State quarterback Darell Garretson out of game early in the second half. Craig Harrison, his backup, completed just five of 12 passes for 28 yards.
Harrison was unable to move the chains late in the game, allowing CSU one final drive which proved to be the difference.
“You hate to see that,” McElwain said of Garretson’s injury. “I saw his wrist in a sling, you just do not wish that on anybody.”
But for the first time all season, the Rams’ inexperience on the offensive line truly showed. Utah State recorded eight sacks preventing Grayson from getting into a rhythm, although his 243 passing yards moved him into first all-time in CSU history (7,250).
However, Higgins served as the safety blanket the Rams needed in the fourth quarter. The sophomore from Mesquite, Texas helped the Rams move down the field to tie the game on a field goal from Roberts with 1:50 left to play.
Higgins had three of his game-high 10 catches on the Rams’ final two scoring drives, including the aforementioned 46-yard reception to set up the winning field goal.
Up next is the Border War, when Colorado State will host rival Wyoming (3-4, 1-2 MW) Saturday, Oct. 25 at 5 p.m. MT.
Collegian Sports Reporter Emmett McCarthy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @emccarthy22.