CSU passing offense key in Border War victory

Emmett McCarthy

Colorado State wide receiver Rashard Higgins (82), breaks away from a Wyoming defender during the Rams' 45-31 victory over the Cowboys Saturday.
Colorado State wide receiver Rashard Higgins (82), breaks away from a Wyoming defender during the Rams’ 45-31 victory over the Cowboys Saturday.

The Wyoming secondary never stood a chance.

Garrett Grayson carved up the Cowboys’ defense in a surgeon-like performance with help from a handful of receivers making big plays throughout the night.

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Wyoming did not have a single interception on the season entering the game and that didn’t change. Grayson finished 18 of 21 for 390 yards and five touchdowns.

It helped that the senior quarterback also had open targets who made things happen after the catch. Xavier Williams and Joe Hansley made defenders miss on their touchdowns catches, and Rashard Higgins put his signature touch on the rivalry game by taking a bubble screen 73 yards to the house.

“I expect big plays out of myself,” Higgins said. “I expect to turn a one-yard route into 80, turn it into 90. That’s just goals I have for myself, and other expect that out of me as well.”

The sophomore finished with 174 yards and two touchdowns. To the Cowboys credit, they kept a safety hanging back for Higgins early but other receivers made them pay.

Once Higgins began seeing more one-on-one coverage, he took advantage.

“I’m just doing my job,” Higgins said. “That’s the way they were playing me but at the end of the day I’m just catching the ball, getting up field and doing what I’m supposed to do.”

The Rams have proven to be one of the more dangerous passing teams in the country with a top quarterback in Grayson at the helm and an elite receiver in Higgins for him to throw to.

Other playmakers stepped up too and forced Wyoming to worry about more than just Higgins, which made the Rams’ passing attack too much to defend.

“Garrett Grayson’s having the best season of his life, and Rashard Higgins, these guys are balling out there,” running back Dee Hart said. “I’m just doing a little clean up duty and I don’t mind that.”

Higgins now leads the nation in receiving touchdowns (12) and receiving yards (1,137). The fact that McElwain still expects more should tell you something about CSU’s passing game.

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“He’s a special player,” McElwain said. “He’s got a long way to go from a consistency standpoint.”

The Border War was Higgins’ fourth consecutive game with over 170 receiving yards but, if you ask him, there’s always room for improvement.

Grayson’s performance was a bit tougher for McElwain to nit-pick though. After completing 80 percent of his passes, while throwing five touchdowns without an interception, that’s usually the case.

“The game kind of slowed down a little bit for him,” McElwain said of Grayson’s performance. “He was throwing on time, and that’s a good performance for a senior in a rivalry game.”

And although Grayson was terrific, he will be the first person to give credit to the players around him, especially the eight different players that had catches, four of which had a receiving touchdown.

“We’ve got a really good receiving corp,” McElwain said. “I spoke to them early in the year and even last spring, I thought throwing the football would be an advantage for us.”

Collegian Sports Reporter Emmett McCarthy can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter at @emccarthy22.