MINNEAPOLIS-The Colorado State Rams fell just short on Saturday’s game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, losing 31-24 in Minneapolis.
The Rams came out and battled the Gophers for much of the contest, but in the end, it was a game of missed opportunities as CSU was often bitten by things that have plagued them all year. The defense missed too many tackles, struggled on third-down, and gave up too many big plays, while the Gophers scored 10 points off CSU turnovers.
“You ask for them to fight and play hard for each other and sell out,” coach Mike Bobo said. “I believe those guys did that. At the end of the day…you are gonna be sick to your stomach because of some missed opportunities. We had a handful of them today.”
Collin Hill and his young bevy of offensive play makers continued to drive the Rams offense, but CSU’s young defense made far too many mistakes for the Rams to come out on top.
Freshman running back Marvin Kinsey ran for 43-yards on eight carries, including an 18-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. While junior wide receivers Detrich Clark and Michael Gallup both scored touchdowns; Clark on a two-yard touchdown run from the quarterback position, while Gallup caught a 15-yard touchdown from Hill.
Hill finished the game 15-30 passing for 182 yards with one touchdown and one interception, while senior quarterback Faton Bauta made his mark on the ground, rushing six times for 35 yards.
The offense put the team in a position to win the ball game, but the CSU defense did not do enough to secure a victory.
Fundamentally, the CSU defense broke down throughout the game, often struggling to contain Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner on the ground and especially through the air. Leidner picked up 174 passing yards on an efficient 16-20 passing game, and he also carried the ball for 61-yards on ten carries.
For the game, Minnesota was able to wear down the Rams, as the Minnesota running back trio of Rodney Smith, Shannon Brooks, and Kobe McCary ran for 204-yards on a combined 34 carries.
Minnesota finished the game 7-13 on third down, taking advantage of a CSU defense that has struggled mightily to get off of the field this season.
As the game opened up, both teams traded punts, but it did not take long for Collin Hill to get the offense moving. On the ensuing Rams drive, Hill hit Ruiz for a 37-yard gain on third down from the CSU 36 to set the Rams up at the Minnesota 27. But three plays later, Hill threw his first interception as a Ram as his pass was picked off by Damarius Travis at the Minnesota 6-yard line.
The Gophers then drove the ball 94-yards in 11 plays capped off by a Leidner 6-yard touchdown run. It was a drive that emphasized the CSU weakness on defense, as the Gophers converted three third-downs.
Collin Hill received his official welcoming to Division I college football with a little under six minutes remaining in the first half and the Rams trailing 14-7, when Minnesota freshman defensive end Tai’yon Devers blasted Hill, causing his helmet to shoot into the air, forcing a fumble that the Gophers recovered on the CSU 33-yard line.
Much of the game was a back and forth affair as both teams traded punches, but the Rams were never able to hold the momentum and capitalize.
“Any time we were able to gain some momentum they were able to answer every time either offensively or answer defensively with a stop,” Bobo said.
After Minnesota punted on its firsts second half possession, neither team could find a way to stop the opposing offense.
Earlier in the week, Bobo said that he was going to continue to get the ball into Deitrich Clark’s hands in any way he could. It showed during the Rams’ first second half possession as Clark, who lined up at quarterback, ran it in for a touchdown from three-yards out to cap off a 53-yard touchdown drive to cut the Minnesota lead to three points.
That deficit lasted all of 1:54 as the Gophers took the ball and went 76-yards in four plays on a drive that included a 32-yard Brooks run, and a 35-yard reception by wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky.
CSU cut the lead to seven on a 41-yard field goal by Wyatt Bryan on the next Rams’ possession, but once again CSU had no answer for the Minnesota offense. The Gophers answered the CSU field goal with an 11-play, 81-yard touchdown drive to extend the lead to 31-17 with just over ten minutes left in the fourth.
CSU immediately answered the touchdown on their next possession when Hill hit Gallup for the touchdown to move CSU within seven (31-24) with 6:24 left in the game. The drive was punctuated by a 29-yard completion from Hayden Hunt to Braylin Scott as the Rams faced fourth-and-five from their own thirty.
Hill had one last chance to tie the game with just over four minutes, as the offense took over on their own 24-yard line. A nine-yard run by Bauta and a 15-yard catch by tight end Danny Nwosu got the Rams to midfield, but on fourth-and-five from the Minnesota 45-yard line, Hill’s pass intended for Dalton Fackrell was broken up by Adekunle Ayinde.
The Gophers then closed out the final 1:50 with two first downs and sent the Rams back to Colorado with a loss.
Collegian sports reporter Eric Wolf can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @Eric_Wolf5