ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- One week after struggling to contain Nevada through the air, Colorado State (6-2) football faced a much different beast Friday night in the New Mexico Lobos (3-4) and their option offense. The Rams defeated the Lobos 27-24 in front of a modest crowd at Dreamstyle Stadium Friday, becoming bowl eligible for a fifth consecutive season and bringing their Mountain West winning streak to four games.
“You’re trying to build consistency. I’ve said that since day one,” head coach Mike Bobo said. “We want to be a consistent program that wins consistently and your ultimate goal is to compete for championships on a consistent basis. We’re on track to do that. We’re 4-0 in the conference.”
The Rams opened the contest by a forcing a turnover on downs, but CSU spent the majority of the first half chasing down the UNM ball carriers after failing to contain the versatile Lobos attack. After giving up five runs of 20 or more yards in the first half alone, the CSU defense found itself looking for any kind solution for UNM head coach Bob Davie’s option attack.
Despite giving up 193 yards on the ground in the first half, an efficient second quarter performance from the CSU offense and a slightly improved defensive effort allowed the Rams to take an 11-point lead into the break (21-10).
Coming out of halftime was a different story, though. The CSU offense opened the second half with four consecutive drives capped off by punts and failed to score a single point in the third quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Rams finally were able to score their first points of the half when Wyatt Bryan converted a 40-yard field goal attempt. The following drive was much more of the same, though, ending with freshman punter Ryan Stonehouse.
While the game was certainly a struggle on both sides of the ball for head coach Mike Bobo’s Rams, CSU did make history under the Albuquerque lights.
Senior quarterback Nick Stevens passed Kelly Stoufer (7,142) for the second-most career passing yards. The Murrieta, Calif. native is also currently No. 2 all-time with 60 career touchdown passes, trailing only Garrett Grayson (64).
In total, Stevens finished 17-of-33 for 223 yards and a pair of touchdowns. What’s more, the veteran has now gone four consecutive games without throwing an interception, the longest streak of his collegiate career.
Junior running back Izzy Matthews led the Rams in rushing, finishing with a game-leading 21 attempts for 116 yards and one touchdown. The performance marks Matthews’ first game over the century mark in 2017 and fourth of his career.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of CSU’s offense Friday night was the physicality displayed by Matthews and the offensive line. Throughout the game, Matthews consistently punished any UNM defender that dared to try to bring him down. Even when they were not looking for contact though, No. 24 delivered it to them anyways.
“That is 100 percent a conscious decision. It’s about sending a message to defenders,” Matthews said. “If I have four yards to the sideline or four yards through you, I’m going to choose through you because the next time that I have that open field run, he’s not going to be there. I promise that.”
Wide receiver Olabisi Johnson finished the night as the team’s leading receiver with 77 receiving yards. However, a lower leg injury sidelined the junior from Colorado late in the third quarter. Injuries were a major theme Friday night, as the Rams lost multiple players to ailments.
Following the victory over the Lobos, CSU football will return home next weekend for a interstate matchup with Air Force. The Falcons defeated CSU 49-46 in Colorado Springs last season and are coming off of a 3 point victory over Nevada.
“I can’t say enough about how they played,” Bobo said. “We’ve got an extra day off. It was tough playing on a short week but we found a way to get the win. At two days off, we’ve gotta get rested and we gotta get ready to come back to play Air Force at home. It’s a big game. The place needs to be a sellout.”
Collegian sports director Justin Michael can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @JustinTMichael.