After snagging an early 14-3 lead and the early momentum in the 2016 Border War, the Colorado State Rams looked to be on their way to taking another step forward this season.
Two turnovers later, the Rams were sent reeling as the Wyoming Cowboys ran them out of Hughes stadium to the tune of a 38-17 victory.
“We did what teams that aren’t very good do,” coach Mike Bobo said. “Turn the ball over, don’t tackle, (and) don’t execute. That’s how you lose 38-17.”
Last week’s loss to Minnesota was a game of missed opportunities, this week it was missed opportunities and then some. CSU could not capitalize in any facet of the game. The Rams made plays, and they even outgained the Cowboys 481-434, but when it mattered most, the Cowboys made plays and the Rams did not.
“When you give a team 14 points off turnovers, and you can not convert in situations, what do you expect,” offensive lineman Fred Zerblis said.
The Rams came out hot, scoring two early first quarter touchdowns to take a 14-3 lead.
Then, one play after a Wyoming touchdown drive capped off by a Shaun Wick touchdown run put the score at 14-10, CSU freshman running back Marvin Kinsey coughed up the ball and the Cowboys recovered. The very next play, quarterback Josh Allen hit wide receiver Tanner Gentry for a 30-yard touchdown pass on a flea-flicker.
The next points came eight minutes later, when pressured CSU quarterback Collin Hill threw the ball right into the hands of Wyoming defensive lineman Chase Appleby. The big guy took the gift, and went 55-yards the other way for a Cowboy touchdown.
By the time the Rams had a chance to recover, the Cowboys had scored 21-straight second quarter points, the last 14 of them coming off of turnovers.
“We turned the ball over twice and we gave them 14 quick points,” tight end Nolan Peralta said. “That’s hard to bounce back from. Those are big momentum changes and it’s hard to overcome those.”
They did not bounce back. After Appleby’s interception return, a lone Wyatt Bryan field goal was all the Rams could muster through the rest of the game, as the Cowboys finished the game on a 35-3 run.
But, the game did not have to end after Appleby’s touchdown.
“There was plenty of time left in the game to continue to play, to get a stop defensively and execute offensively, and we didn’t,” Bobo said. “Yes they got fourteen points off of that, (But) there was plenty of time left in the ball game to continue to play.”
The Rams were only down 10 points, but every time CSU had a chance to make a play of their own, they could not do it.
Facing third-and-seven from their own 27-yard line to start the second half, Allen was looking for receiver C.J. Johnson on the CSU sideline, when safety Justin Sweet jumped the outside route. Sweet had nothing but 30 or so yards of open space to the end zone, but the ball slipped through his hands and the Cowboys punted it away. Sweet’s pick-six would have tied the game, and pushed all of the momentum onto the CSU sideline, but he couldn’t make the play.
On the ensuing CSU drive, Hill under threw a wide open Sammie Long who dropped the ball as the Wyoming defense converged. It was not the only ball Hill missed all night, and it was not the only dropped pass by a CSU receiver, there were plenty of those to go around. But it was a potential game changing play that the Rams left on the field.
“Drops and execution offensively,” Bobo said. “(We) have a chance to get back in the game and we did not capitalize.”
And when the Rams did make plays, and put themselves in a position to pull themselves back, they could not follow through.
Trailing 24-17 in the third quarter the Rams defense came up with a big fourth down stop on their own 22-yard line. Two plays later quarterback Collin Hill had the Rams set up with first-and-goal at the Wyoming 10-yard line. Three plays later, Wyatt Bryan missed a 24-yard field goal. Five plays later, Wyoming running back Brian Hill scored from one-yard out, effectively putting the game away.
The start of the second half was a microcosm of the game itself. It was a back and forth affair, CSU made plays, and they had chances to pull the momentum back on their side, but they could not find a way to execute, and then the Cowboys turned around and made them pay.
“(We) gained momentum, then (we) could not keep momentum,” Bobo said. “We lose momentum and had a chance to get it back a couple times and we could not capitalize. Then, from that point on, they physically dominated the game.”
Collegian sports reporter Eric Wolf can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Eric_Wolf5