Analysis: Turnovers, special teams doom CSU in 27-24 OT loss to Colorado

Keegan Pope

Two consecutive games. Two overtime losses on field goals. The plays leading up to it were different, but the result was the same for Colorado State. 

Colorado State kicker Wyatt Bryan attempts a field goal during Colorado State's 27-24 loss to Colorado. (Abbie Parr/Collegian)
Colorado State kicker Wyatt Bryan attempts a field goal during Colorado State’s 27-24 loss to Colorado. (Abbie Parr/Collegian)

As Diego Gonzales’ 32-yard field goal split the uprights and University of Colorado players rushed onto the field to celebrate their 27-24 win in the Rocky Mountain Showdown, there was an all-too-familiar air of heartbreak on the Colorado State sideline.

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A week after losing to Minnesota on a field goal in overtime, CSU handed a win to their archrivals and fell to 1-2 on the year. Had one or two plays gone a little differently, or one or two balls bounced a different way, the Rams would be heading into their first true road game on the year 3-0. But they’re not.

“I don’t know what it is, we just keep losing in overtime,” a somber Rashard Higgins said after the game. “But we’ll find a way to get there.”

The usually effervescent Higgins was a shell of himself after the game, and the same could be said for the rest of his Colorado State teammates. This one hurt – badly.

After taking a 14-0 lead with 2:44 left to play in the first quarter, CSU’s offense disappeared for the better part of two quarters. The yards were there – 500 of them in total – but an offense that found a way to come up with clutch plays when it needed them last year, just couldn’t do it Saturday night. When the Rams needed a big play, they fell yards, or even inches short.

Case in point, on the opening drive of the fourth quarter, tied at 17, Nick Stevens hit wide receiver Xavier Williams for four and a half yards. He needed five for the first down.

It seemed CSU was that close all night. The Rams outpassed the Buffs, outran the Buffs and for the most part, dominated the line of scrimmage. But like it did against Minnesota, this one came down to turnovers and special teams, two areas where CU won hands down.

“We missed three field goals, and one was probably a little too long for us to try,” CSU head coach Mike Bobo said. “He (Wyatt Bryan) made the one to clinch it into overtime last week, and we feel like he’s the best guy. We have to keep putting him in those situations, but we’ve got to do a better job on offense and not settle for field goals. At the end of the day, when your offense stalls you’ve got to get points, and we haven’t done that enough. And we lost the turnover battle again.”

Last season, the Rams were 4-1 in games decided by seven points or less. So far this season, they are 0-2.

“Last year we finished (games), and this year we aren’t finishing what we’re supposed to,” senior safety Trent Matthews said. “Last year we had an electrifying offense, and this year we have an electrifying defense. But we’ve got the same brotherhood, the same logo, the same jerseys, we just didn’t find a way to win today.”

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(Highlights by Travis Green/CTV11)

Now sitting at 1-2, and heading to San Antonio next weekend to face UT-San Antonio, Colorado State faces a defining moment in their season, Bobo said.

“For three games we’ve played hard, we’ve been all in, and played for 60 minutes-plus in the last two games,” Bobo said. “I expect the same thing on Monday. (I told the guys) if that’s not for you, or you doubt what we’re doing, my office will be open and you can come in. But the guys who wear the green and gold are going to play hard for the green and gold every week.”

Matthews insists they’ll turn it around.

“Some people have fear that we might not win another game this season,” Matthews said. “But without fear, there’s no courage. I think our team is based off of courage, and I think our team is based off wanting to win and wanting to be great, and we’re not going to stop until we do it. We can play whatever time, every week, and we’re still going to try to find a way to win. That’s our job, and next week we’ve got to just find a way. … Right now I am still hurting, but we still have a lot to show on offense defense and special teams. We have a chip on our shoulder and we aren’t going to stop until we win.” 

Collegian Senior Sports Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at kpope@collegian.com and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.