From the way Colorado State’s last homecoming game at Hughes Stadium started, it looked like the Rams were on their way to a third consecutive loss and an 0-2 start in conference play.
Trailing 24-10 at halftime, the Rams defense looked like they did not have any sort of response for what quarterback Kent Myers and Utah State’s offense were throwing at them.
But then the second half came around, and the CSU defense locked it in and locked down the Aggies in the process.
“I’m really proud of the defense and how they played in the second half, really (in) that fourth quarter. We bowed our neck in plus-territory and guys stepped up,” coach Mike Bobo said. “I’m really proud of the way they responded.”
In the first half, the CSU defense did not respond to the challenge given to them after the Border War loss last week.
CSU gave up 278 yards, 174 of them on the ground, and dual threat quarterback Kent Myers tore up the defense, running for 56-yards and two touchdowns on nine carries, while throwing for 104 yards.
The emphasis from the CSU defense all week was to contain Myers and the Utah State ground attack, but the Rams struggled mightily to slow down the Aggie running game, particularly on the boundary in the first half.
But after halftime, the script completely flipped.
The CSU defense gave up 183 yards in the second half, and shut out the Aggies, holding the score at 24 for the rest of the game. Six times in the second half the Aggies moved the ball to the 50-yard line or into CSU territory and came off the field each time with no points to show for it.
“We kept getting momentum and momentum and getting energized and feeding off of each other.” Bobo said.
It was not a perfect performance in the second half. The Aggies were still able to gash the Rams with big plays and there were some particularly ugly defensive moments such as two straight pass interference calls on cornerback Tyree Simmons that helped move a fourth quarter Aggie drive all the way to the CSU 37.
But the Rams defense held out on that drive, and in the end, the only thing that really mattered was the zero the defense through up on the scoreboard in the second half.
“That’s just boost for the defense,” linebacker Kevin Davis said. “That’s huge confidence, just for as young as we are, to be able to go out there in the second half of the game and shutout Utah State.”
Bobo attributed the change of pace to a defense that was playing freer in the second half. He wanted his players to go out and fly around and attack the ball, and that is what they did.
Just like in the week two game against UTSA, once the defense started getting stops, the train started rolling and it kept rolling through the second half for the Rams.
“We were playing more on the attack,” safety Jake Schlager said. “We were having a blast. Everyone was just flying around making plays. The energy was going from one person to another.”
For the most part, the CSU defense was able to crack down on Myers in the second half, holding him to 46 yards rushing, and 9-21 passing. The Rams also sacked Myers four times on the night.
And for a team that came into the game minus-two in turnover differential and had its last two games marked by losing the turnover battle, it had to feel good to walk away from this game on the other side.
The Rams offense did not turnover the ball and the CSU defense forced two of their own. One of them came when Simmons delivered a big hit to Aggie running back Tonny Lindsey Jr. in the third quarter, forcing a fumble recovered by linebacker Kevin Davis.
The second one came when Davis picked off Myers as Utah State faced third-and-five from the fifty with 47 seconds left in the game. A defensive game-clincher from the defense’s best player stood as a fitting end for a game that was largely won by the CSU defensive effort in the second half.
“Don’t drop the ball, it was too wide open, my thoughts were just don’t drop the ball, and get down,” Davis said about what was running through his mind on his interception. “It was a relief. It was something we needed as a team.”
Collegian sports reporter Eric Wolf can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Eric_Wolf5