James Skelton became CSU football’s Tim Tebow

With first and goal looming from the 5-yard line, linebacker James Skelton found himself lined up behind the center about to take a snap at quarterback, something he’d never done outside of practice.

Skelton had played both ways in high school, but never quarterback.

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In all reality he was a running back and the mission was clear — score. And for the first time in his CSU career Skelton did just that.

“I can’t describe something like that,” Skelton said after the 42-27 win over Hawai’i. “I’m just fortunate the hole was so big, so I can thank the o-line for that one.”

Skelton finished with just three carries for 13 yards, but sparked his team. The touchdown put the Rams on top 21-14 with 12:50 left in the first quarter, their first lead of the game. CSU didn’t trail again for the rest of the night.

While Skelton seemed hardly phased by the fact he played several snaps out of the wildcat formation, his defensive teammates were thrilled to see their middle linebacker get the sort of attention usually reserved for quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers.

“I came over there and (we) just smiled at each other and I gave him a high five and a hug. I told him how good he looked out there running the ball,” linebacker Shaquil Barrett said. “Hopefully there’s some more to come for the wildcat for Skelly. It was a good feeling.”

Skelton, a senior, was nearly four years into his career without a single point credited to his name. Not an interception or a lucky fumble had bounced his way. Needless to say he never imagined getting his chance at glory on the other side of scrimmage.

“No I didn’t (see myself scoring on offense), I definitely didn’t, but I’m just happy it happened,” he said. “I’d be fine with (moving to offense). I know this is high school football, but I played both ways in high school. I’d be fine to do whatever I can for the team.”

CSU coach Jim McElwain first had the idea to insert Skelton on offense simply because he could hold onto the ball. The idea turned into reps at practice and McElwain saw enough to implement his new weapon in the game plan.

“I said ‘this guy will hold onto the ball, he’s tough and it means something to him,’ I’m ready to put him back there full time,” McElwain joked after the game. “I’m ready to, but they won’t let me on defense because they’re so thin, but we’ll keep that package in.”

Sports Editor Cris Tiller can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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