FORT COLLINS- In front of a sold out stadium of 37,583 people, the largest home crowd for a home opener in Colorado State history, the Rams kicked off the 2017 college football season and officially christened the on-campus stadium with a 58-27 victory over Oregon State.
“First of all I just want to say how excited I am for this University, the Fort Collins community and our fanbase. It was an awesome day to be a Ram,” head coach Mike Bobo said. “I can’t say how proud I am of our football team…We’ve been talking about it since the game moved. The big responsibility we had to the university, to the community to our fanbase. How we had to be ready to put our best put forward for Ram Nation. That’s a lot of pressure.”
After each team started the contest by going three and out, the game quickly turned into an offensive shootout Saturday afternoon.
The Beavers delivered the opening strike of the day. OSU capped off an eight play, 80-yard drive with a 39-yard touchdown pass from redshirt junior quarterback Jake Luton to junior wide receiver Timmy Hernandez to put the Beavers up 7-0.
The Rams quickly responded with a nine play, 79-yard drive of their own though. During the first scoring drive of the season, CSU displayed the versatility within their offensive unit. During the nine-play sequence, five different pass-catchers were targeted and both starting running backs were used.
Throughout the opening quarter, head coach Mike Bobo attempted to push the tempo, which allowed the offense to get off to quick start. By switching back and forth between running backs Dalyn Dawkins and Izzy Matthews, the Rams were able to keep the Beavers defense off balance and capitalize on some of the pre-game momentum.
Along with Dawkins and Matthews, sophomore running back Marvin Kinsey Jr. and redshirt freshman Rashaad Boddie each saw the field in the first half as well. Kinsey is coming off an ACL injury from the 2016 season and Boddie made his CSU debut.
Overall the first half was highlighted by big plays from both teams, including a 75-yard touchdown run from OSU running back Ryan Nall and a forced fumble from CSU linebacker Josh Watson. Each team turned the ball over once. Each team scored through the air and on the ground.
Colorado State came out of halftime with a slim four point lead (24-20) and quickly got the ball rolling, as senior wide receiver Detrich Clark was able to set the Rams up with great field position, taking the opening kickoff to midfield.
After redshirt junior kicker Wyatt Bryan was able to secure the lead (27-20) with his second made field goal of the day, redshirt junior linebacker Tre Thomas was able to break the game open with a 44-yard interception return for a touchdown.
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Trying to regain some momentum after the pick-six, OSU attempted to take a shot deep down the middle of the field, but Luton’s pass was intercepted by defensive back Anthony Hawkins. Following the Beavers’ second turnover of the quarter, Bryan was able to deliver with his third made field goal of the afternoon, putting the Rams up by 17 at the top of the fourth quarter.
“It was huge for our defense,” Bobo said. “Since day one of camp on July 23, we talked about having a fighter’s mentality on defense. You know we are going to get punched but we are not going to fold.”
CSU appeared to have delivered the final blow when Johnson took a punt return 50-plus yards to put the Rams in field goal position. Unfortunately for Bobo’s Rams the play would not stand, as an illegal block in the back negated the long return. On the very next play, Johnson muffed the punt, resulting in OSU taking over at CSU’s 23-yard line.
Three plays later, Luton delivered a 25-yard touchdown pass to once again bring the Beavers within two scores (37-27).
The Rams were able to quickly respond though, taking only 1:19 to go 75 yards and find the endzone once again. The 20-yard touchdown reception from Clark proved to be the final knockout punch for the Rams, as the Beavers were not able to respond with a score of their own.
In total, Redshirt senior quarterback Nick Stevens finished the day 26-of-39 for 334 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Stevens’ lone pick came in the first quarter, when the veteran quarterback was drilled by a blitzing defender.
“I thought Nick played outstanding today at the quarterback position,” Bobo said. “He showed a lot of toughness. (He) Got hit a lot early.”
Along with Stevens, the Rams offense received big production from wide receivers Michael Gallup and “Bisi” Johnson. Gallup finished the day with 11 receptions for 134 yards, while Johnson totalled five receptions for 66 yards.
The Rams will look to carry the energy of Saturday’s victory into the Rocky Mountain Showdown this Friday (Sept. 1). The game will kickoff at 6:00 p.m. MT and will be televised nationally on the PAC-12 Network.
Collegian sports director Justin Michael can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @JustinTMichael.