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Experienced offensive line key to CSU football’s big win against New Mexico

Head coach Jim McElwain likes to say that the end result of a game isn’t about what shows up in the box score, it’s about what happened to cause those numbers to show up that really matter.

Offensive lineman Jared Biard celebrates with teammates after a victory over UTEP on Sept. 28, 2013
Offensive lineman Jared Biard celebrates with teammates after a victory over UTEP on Sept. 28, 2013

On Saturday against New Mexico, CSU’s veteran offensive line provided the protection the Rams needed that allowed running back Kapri Bibbs to rack up record-breaking numbers, bringing the Rams one step closer to clinching a bowl berth.

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Bibbs, a first-year player for the Rams, added to his already impressive resume with a six-touchdown performance in Saturday’s 66-42 win over the Lobos. Bibbs racked up 291 yards on the ground, bringing his season total to 1,439 yards and an NCAA-best 25 rushing touchdowns. His 25 touchdowns broke a CSU single-season record set in 1996 by Calvin Branch who rushed for 21.

After the game, Bibbs, who is not allowed to speak with the media per team rules on first-year players, tweeted his gratitude for the linemen:

“Best o line in the country love my boys wouldn’t trade them for anything @TySambo51 @westonrichburg B. Haynes Biard Gregert la familia.”

CSU’s offensive line, comprised of seniors Weston Richburg, Jared Biard, Brandon Haynes, Jordan Gragert and junior Ty Sambrailo, was the protecting force that allowed the Rams to gain more than 600 yards for the second time in three weeks. By controlling the line of scrimmage, they allowed quarterback Garrett Grayson the time he needed to complete the balanced offensive attack with 302 yards passing and three touchdowns. He also converted three third down situations using his legs and CSU scored on ten of their 11 drives, nine of which resulted in touchdowns.

And the Rams needed those touchdowns.

New Mexico’s triple-option attack caused problems for the CSU defense and allowed the Lobos to stay in the game with explosive plays, something that has been the Rams’ Achilles heel this season.

“I was proud of the offense because they knew that we were struggling in the other two phases, special teams and defense,” McElwain said after the game. “They had that swagger every time they got in the huddle; ‘Coach we are going to make something happen; don’t worry about it’. That is good.”

Earlier this year, Richburg said the goal of the offensive line was to have a running back gain one thousand yards in a single season. Bibbs surpassed that mark last week against Nevada after posting a career high 312 yards on the ground, and the Rams have two games left to play in the regular season.

After four consecutive losing seasons, the four seniors on the offensive line finally have a shot at a winning record and even a bowl appearance if the Rams win at least one of their remaining two games. Giving the seniors an extra game also serves as motivation among younger teammates.

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“That’s huge,” Sambrailo said last week. “It’s huge to send them off on the right foot. Things haven’t necessarily gone their way during their careers but I feel like if we finish this off right it will be a good thing for them.”

The Rams will travel to Utah on Saturday to take on 6-4 Utah State Aggies Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

Football Beat Reporter Katie O’Keefe can be reached at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @KatieLOK. 

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