Rams playmakers show up big in 42-17 win over Tulsa

Steven Jacobs

CSU running back Dee Hart heads for endzone during Saturday's 42-17 win over Tulsa at Hughes Stadium. (Photo Credit: Abbie Parr/Collegian)
CSU running back Dee Hart heads for endzone during Saturday’s 42-17 win over Tulsa at Hughes Stadium. (Photo Credit: Abbie Parr/Collegian)

Whether it was Colorado State’s pumpkin and alfalfa uniforms or the team’s confidence coming off of a big win against Boston College, the Rams entered the “Orange Out” game against Tulsa on Saturday roaring and left with a big 42-17 win.

Wide receiver Rashard “Hollywood” Higgins led all Rams receivers with 178 yards on just six receptions and a school-record four touchdown receptions while running back Dee Hart finished with 143 yards on 11 carries to go with two touchdowns of his own.

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Higgins made a lot of Rams history against Tulsa on Saturday. He moved up to 10th on the all-time touchdown reception list at CSU, his 178 receiving yards were 10th all-time in a game for CSU, and he has now caught 100 career receptions faster than anyone in the history of the Rams. Rashaun Greer previously needed 24 games to amass 100 career receptions, but Higgins has now done it in 19 games.

But CSU head coach Jim McElwain wanted to tone down the excitement from Higgins’ record-breaking performance and stress that Higgins can, and should be, performing this way every week.

“He’s not there yet,” McElwain said of Higgins. “I told him after the game that this is the expectation and now let’s do it 100 percent every day. But I can’t tell you how happy I am that he’s a Ram.”

On defense, backfield mates Preston Hodges and Trent Matthews both had an interception while defensive end Joe Kawulok had three and a half sacks, tied for fourth all-time by a CSU player in a single game. The Rams defense essentially stuffed the Tulsa running game, allowing 127 yards on 45 carries (2.8 avg). They only allowed one big passing play to go over their heads, a 65-yard pass from Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans to receiver Derek Patterson.

Although several individual players had career-days in the win over Tulsa, the Colorado State team’s balance and overall effort are what allowed the playmakers to make plays.

On offense, the Rams would have been hard pressed to be more balanced than they were on Saturday. Out of the team’s 532 total yards, 298 of them came on passing and 234 of them came on rushing, and both the run game and passing game complimented each other.

On the Rams very first running play of the game, Hart burst through a hole for a career-high 53-yard sprint. From that point forward, the Tulsa defense was worried about the Rams running backs and kept more defenders in the box to prevent more big runs. This was despite the fact that one of the Rams three running backs, Treyous Jarrells, was not active for the game.

Not only would the Tulsa defense fail to stop more big running plays from the Rams, they failed to stop a second Rams running back, Jason Oden Jr., from getting his own career-high rush of 63 yards. If that wasn’t enough, the Rams took advantage of Tulsa’s aggressiveness trying to stop the run game by throwing play-action passes, which Higgins benefited from immensely.

But even though Higgins and Hart had eye-popping stat lines, they weren’t the only playmakers in the game.

Senior receiver Charles Lovett, who caught the game-winning touchdown against Boston College, had two catches for 70 yards which included a clutch 63-yard grab on a third and 10 that kept the Rams’ drive alive. Oden Jr. also acted as a great compliment to Dee Hart, adding 90 yards on twelve carries to the Rams numbers.

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One unlikely playmaker in the game was backup quarterback Nick Stevens, who replaced Grayson when the Rams had a comfortable lead and threw his very first collegiate touchdown, a 36-yard strike to Higgins.

“That was a really satisfying win,” McElwain said. “We’re getting better as a football team. We’re starting to create an identity for ourselves and that’s important to establish this program for years to come. These guys are fighting and doing a heck of a job.”

Collegian Sports Reporter Steven Jacobs can be reached at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @steven_jacobs_.