Vandals freeze Rams in Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Chad Deutschman

Press conference footage provided by CTV sports’ Olivia Landis and Karlee Schwartzkopf 

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BOISE, Idaho— Colorado State was frozen on the blue turf. Not by the cold, but by the opponent.

Coming into the 20th Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Colorado State was a 15-point favorite averaging 48 points per game over the past five contests and one of the hottest teams in the country.

Leaving the icy turf at Albertsons Stadium, the Rams were just cold.

Idaho came out on top 61-50, but the final score was no accurate depiction of what actually occurred. Colorado State was outplayed and they know it.

Facing a 20-7 halftime deficit, Colorado State came out in the second half to give up touchdowns on five consecutive possessions as Idaho quarterback Matt Linehan picked apart the CSU defense to the tune of 21-of-31 passing for 381 yards and five total touchdowns. At it’s largest, the Idaho lead grew to 48-14.

“We had a chance to start fast, and that’s something we’ve done very, very well really most of the season and especially the last half of the season is starting fast,” CSU head coach Mike Bobo said. “Had a little adversity and got behind and did not respond the way I would like us to respond.”

In the first half, Colorado State was only able to tally six first downs to Idaho’s 14. The CSU offense that averaged 48 points per game over the past five contests was held to just 174 yards in the first half.

Idaho didn’t come out and dominate form the start, as both teams failed to move the ball in a scoreless first quarter. It was in the second quarter where Idaho began to take control of the game, even after CSU took the lead via a 52-yard touchdown pass form Nick Stevens to Olabisi Johnson.

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Photos by Abbie Parr | CSU Athletics

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By the time the lead had grown to 20-7, lack of execution on both sides of the ball for CSU was apparent.

“I don’t think you can pin it on exactly one thing,” quarterback Nick Stevens said about the slow start. “We weren’t able to get anything going in the run or pass game. They held us to seven points in the firs half. It’s always going to be tough to win when you put up seven in a half, and we couldn’t get any momentum going on any side of the ball, so that was definitely a tough part.”

Weather conditions did not help CSU in the first half, as the kickoff temperature came in at 22 degrees. Ice was visible on the field, and it made its presence known as multiple players slipped on what would have positive gains.

While Idaho played on the same field conditions, Colorado State did admit they let the conditions get into their heads, and it may have attributed to the slow start.

“In that first half we faced a little adversity and it got to us and it got in our head,” sophomore wide receiver Bisi Johnson said. “And we didn’t figure it out until the second half of how to actually play CSU football.”

On the defensive side of things, the second half was worse than the first half for CSU, as they gave up 41 points. Carrying over form the end of the first half, Idaho scored on five straight possessions and gashed the Rams for two touchdowns over 50 yards.

“It wasn’t anything that we hadn’t seen all week.” safety Jake Schalger said. “We prepared for this type of offense, we prepared for them since we found out we were playing them. I wouldn’t say it was anything that we weren’t prepared for. It was just a lack of execution and just the nitty-gritty, and when it comes down to it we didn’t do what we needed to do to stop them.”

On the offensive side of things, CSU was stagnant for three quarters, but exploded for 36 points in the fourth. Nick Stevens set a personal and Famous Idaho Potato Bowl record with 445 passing yards to go along with five touchdowns. In the fourth quarter alone, Stevens threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns. Two of Stevens’ three fourth quarter touchdowns went to Michael Gallup, who finished the game with six catches for 108 yards and three touchdowns.

“It was extremely disappointing,” Stevens said. “The biggest thing is I felt like we prepared really well them. I don’t think we took any days off or chalked it up as a win in our books. I think that we practiced really hard and had some really quality practices, we just weren’t able to have that carry over onto the field.”

While Stevens and Olabisi Johnson (seven catches, 265 yards and two touchdowns) would go on to set Potato Bowl records, by the time CSU got things rolling it was too late.

The 61-50 loss puts a dull end to an otherwise exciting season for CSU. The team is looking forward to carrying over that momentum into the 2017 season.

“You definitely cant let one game define your season, define your outlook on what next year is going to look like,” Schlager said. “We had a heck of a ride, heck of a season with these seniors and it was a blast. It’s definitely one that’s going to hold that spot in your head for the rest of your life, but I’m not going to say this one game is going to put a damper on what we are capable of doing next year… it’s a new season and it starts tomorrow.”

Collegian sports editor Chad Deutschman can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @ChadDeutschman