Through adversity, Rams win again in front of family-laden crowd

Luke Zahlmann

In front of the fifth-highest attendance in program history, Colorado State football trudged their way to a mistake-laden victory over the University of New Mexico, 20-18.

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A trip to the West Coast paid dividends for the CSU defense early in their bout with UNM.

On just the second play from scrimmage for the visitors, redshirt senior Caleb Smith forced a fumble on UNM redshirt senior Tyrone Owens, scooped up by fellow redshirt senior Tre Thomas. The turnover was just the ninth for CSU through their first six games.

Another pair of plays resulted in the first score of the game, a five-yard pass from redshirt senior K.J. Carta-Samuels to redshirt junior Preston Williams at the pylon. The touchdown was Williams’ seventh of the year, a team high.

The score, only 1:10 into the game, represented the quickest score of the CSU season to this point. 

Then, the problems arose. 

A mere two drives later, Williams dropped what would have been his eighth of the year on a deep ball over the middle from Carta-Samuels.

Football players run out onto the field before the Homecoming Game against the New Mexico Lobos on Oct. 13. The Rams won 20-18. (Natalie Dyer | Collegian)

Before the half, CSU once again mixed run and pass to consume the clock. Their second scoring drive of the contest blended eight plays on the ground, another five through the air, resulting in a 16 play, 96-yard drive.

“It was a drive that just required faith,” senior Izzy Matthews said. “You’re backed up and a lot of times teams are like, ‘We just gotta get five yards and punt,’ but we’re not thinking that way. We’re thinking we’re gonna go down the field 96 yards and score.” 

Going into the break, Carta-Samuels led the way with 140 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Williams was the biggest beneficiary, reeling in six passes for 52 yards and a score of his own.

After allowing a quick 80-yard scoring drive on only five plays soon after halftime, the CSU offense drove down the field once more.

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After reaching the red zone, the playcalling went wayward. Following a four-yard rush from sophomore Marcus McElroy, the team ran a pair of direct snap runs with freshman tight end Trey McBride.

“It was a power play,” Coach Mike Bobo said. “They were in an under front … it was supposed to hit off tackle … he could’ve walked in. We called it again and said ‘hit it tighter’ and he went outside again.”

Both plays succumbed to flaws as McBride ran into his lead blocker both times, settling for minimal gains. Once a likely touchdown drive, the Rams settled for a 22-yard field goal.

Shortly after, sophomore punter Ryan Stonehouse nailed a 62-yard punt that was subsequently returned for 54 yards to the CSU 11-yard line. The kick, effectively eight yards, resulted in a UNM five-yard touchdown, a leaping grab from Lobos’ redshirt senior wideout Delane Hart-Johnson. 

“It’s embarrassing as a punt coverage team, (and) as a punter, to have something like that happen,” Stonehouse said. “There’s a lot of things we have to correct as a punt team, especially in the coverage.” 

Ryan Stonehouse punts the football
Punter Ryan Stonehouse kicks the ball away on fourth down during a 44-42 victory against the University of Nevada on October 14, 2017. (Jack Starkebaum)

A 14-3 lead gave way to an 18-17 deficit in just over a quarter, similar to last week’s collapse.

A return touchdown by Johnson appeared to put the hosts up in the waning moments, but a holding call reversed the momentum. On the same drive, the offense had a pair of false starts once they reached the goal line, settling for an 18-yard field goal attempt.

Unfortunately for the Rams’ faithful, redshirt senior Wyatt Bryan missed the kick. 

Given a second chance, with little momentum prior, the Rams stormed back. With their final drive beginning with 2:01 to go, the hosts drove down the field in 10 plays. The stage was set once again for Bryan.

The Larkspur, Colorado native salvaged the contest, splitting the uprights from 26 yards out. As the clock hit zero, the Rams held the final lead, mistakes be damned.

The team will now head to Boise, Idaho to take on Boise State University under the lights Oct. 19. The Rams will look for revenge after their second-half collapse against the Broncos last year.

Collegian Sports Director Luke Zahlmann can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @lukezahlmann.