Had it not been for the heroics of wide receiver Michael Gallup and running back Dalyn Dawkins, the Colorado State football team may be looking at its worst defeat in years.
Instead, both players posted their best statistical performance of their collegiate careers and CSU escaped Nevada’s upset bid, winning 44-42.
In a season where the defense has continually stepped up to put the offense in a position to win, that was not entirely the case Saturday night. Though the Rams jumped out to an early 14-point lead, Nevada utilized explosive plays to mount its comeback.
The first of Nevada’s three pass touchdowns of at least 50 yards came at the end of the second quarter on a halfback pass from Kelton Moore. Moore found a wide open McLane Mannix for a 57-yard score that tied the game at 14.
In the third quarter with the score tied at 28, quarterback Ty Gangi hit Wyatt Demps on the first play of the drive for a 65-yard strike. Then, on Nevada’s next possession, Gangi connected with Brendan O’Leary-Orange for a 55-yard touchdown that gave Nevada an 11-point advantage.
Throughout the year, head coach Mike Bobo has consistently focused on limiting the explosive plays from opponents. The downfall that has reared its ugly head previously in the season was once again apparent on Saturday.
“Early in the year, we did not do well against explosive plays,” Bobo said. “We can’t give up the explosive play and we were not very good at that tonight. We gave up explosive plays for touchdowns, and that’s not good.”
After falling down 11, Gallup and Dawkins led the comeback train. On the ensuing possession, Dawkins bested Nevada’s rushing total for the game on one play. He took a handoff 59 yards for a score and reenergized an offense that struggled after coming out hot.
Still down by four points, Gallup controlled the Rams’ next drive. The senior recorded receptions of 17, 26 and 17 yards, the latter of which resulted in the game-winning touchdown.
On the night, Gallup hauled in 13 catches for 263 yards and three touchdowns. Dawkins ran the ball 17 times for 191 yards and one touchdown as both players set career-highs in yardage.
Defensive lineman Darnell Thompson realizes that this was an instance in which the offense bailed out a defense that did not play up to its standards.
“Some games are going to be defensive games, sometimes it’s offensive games,” Thompson said. “This game, the defense was struggling, offense had to find a way. That’s where good teams can be great teams, it makes one team better. The offense stepped up, I commend them. We’ve got to go back to work, fix our mistakes and get after it next week.”
That said, the defense was the unit who clinched the victory as Saturday night crept into Sunday morning. Despite its subpar performance for the majority of the game, their ability to lock down cannot be overlooked. It’s also something that Gallup and quarterback Nick Stevens had no doubts about.
“I’m over here thinking we’re going to get the stop, that’s the only way you can think,” Gallup said.
“At the end of the day, the game was on the line and it was their game to go out and win, and they did,” Stevens added. “It gives us a lot of confidence to know that, even though they didn’t have a shutout or their greatest game, they still came through in the clutch at the end and won the game for us.”
Collegian sports editor Colin Barnard can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ColinBarnard_.