CSU comes up short on Senior Day after final touchdown is negated

Eddie Herz

Colorado State players stormed the field after seemingly pulling off a monumental upset over No. 14 Utah State on Senior Day at Canvas Stadium for a touchdown, and win, that never was.

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After scraping and crawling all game long in frigid conditions, redshirt sophomore quarterback Collin Hill heaved up a desperation 39-yard pass to the end zone. Redshirt junior receiver Preston Williams hauled in the ball as the clock struck zero.

CSU began frantically celebrating a 30-24 victory. But, with Rams players gathered on the field in sheer joy, the officials brought the game-winning play back. The final score was instead 29-24 in favor of the visitors. 

A CSU player jumps up between two opponents to catch the ball
Preston Williams jumps to catch a touchdown pass in the final seconds of the Rams game against Utah State. Unfortunately, the touchdown that put the Rams in the lead was called off due to an out-of-bounds call on Williams. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

Williams had stepped out of bounds upon running his route. The receiver was the first player to touch the ball, and being that Williams wasn’t pushed out of bounds, he was ruled ineligible.

Aggies’ players celebrated. The Rams and the few fans who were still scattered amongst the stands stood still in shock.

“I couldn’t even believe it,” senior receiver Olabisi Johnson said. “Going from pure joy to having your heart ripped out.”

Not only were players stunned because of the call, but also because most players were unaware a penalty was even called. 

“That was probably like the ultimate high and then pretty low,” Hill said. “Thinking you won the game then it gets reversed…Nobody even knew that there was a flag. We didn’t know what they were talking about (honestly). We thought it was over.”

The Rams dropped their fourth-consecutive game, falling to 3-8 on the season. The Aggies’ win streak increased to 10 games, improving to 10-1, bolstering their national appeal in the process. 

Despite entering the final home game of the season as 28-point underdogs, the Rams played with intentions of winning for four quarters. In celebration of those graduating, the Rams played with emotion it evidently lacked all season.

“There is a lot of hurt in that locker room right now because they played their tails off,” Coach Mike Bobo said. “I’m proud of that. We looked like a football team today really for the first time all year”

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The Rams trailed the Aggies 10-7 at halftime due to a few costly mistakes.

Redshirt senior Wyatt Bryan missed a 41-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter that would have given the Rams a 3-0 lead. Additionally, Hill threw his first of two pick-sixes in the second quarter.

The third-year signal caller overthrew Williams on a short pass and the ball was tipped into the hands of Aggies’ defender, senior Aaron Wade. He took the interception all the way to the end zone for a 95-yard score, the fourth longest in school history. 

Despite the mistakes, the Rams prohibited the Aggies from pulling away early in the second half.

After going ahead 13-10, the Aggies sniffed out a Hill pass for the second time. Again, resulting in points as senior Jontrell Rocquemore took the interception 32 yards for the score with under three minutes remaining in the third quarter.

The Rams kept fighting though as Williams and Hill connected twice in the fourth quarter. The first was a nine-yard score early in the fourth quarter, trimming the deficit to 20-17 with 10:36 remaining.

Williams’ second touchdown of the afternoon came after the Rams were given a second opportunity to take the lead late in the game. In his last home game at Canvas Stadium, redshirt senior linebacker Josh Watson fell on the ball after the Aggies couldn’t handle a punt inside its own 20. 

a player runs with the ball
Josh Watson runs down the field after catching a pass that put the Rams in scoring position against Utah State. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

The Rams were set up in the redzone with under three minutes remaining, trailing by one. Two plays later, Hill and Williams connected once again, this time from 17 yards away, giving CSU a 24-23 lead.

Trailing 24-23, the visitors drove 71 yards in under a minute to regain the lead with 43 seconds left.

The most-emotion filled play of the season for the Rams ensued after Hill was sacked with eight seconds remaining.

“You wish you could finish right there and win that ball game,” Bobo said. “But we weren’t able to do it.”

Johnson brought to light the impact that the missed opportunity brought on the team. 

“It was tough,” Johnson said. “There were tears (in the locker room), people were angry. But, at the end of the day, we fought today.”

The Aggies entered the afternoon matchup averaging 518 yards per game, the 10th-best total in the nation. The Rams held the Aggies to only 310 total yards of offense, gathering 506 total yards of their own. 

“Defensively I thought we had a good plan of keeping them in front of us,” Bobo said. “We did that, but just came up short.”

Key seniors such as Johnson, running back Izzy Matthews, and linebacker Tre Thomas will never play a home collegiate game again. All of which went down swinging despite the outcome.

Johnson led the Rams in both receptions (seven) and receiving yards (107). Matthews put forth his best effort of the season as the back totaled 128 yards on 24 touches. Thomas accumulated 10 tackles to lead CSU’s defense.

“I’ve never seen us fight like that this whole season,” Johnson said. “We just came together. It was senior day and everybody really bought in today…Guys are sick of losing, especially after that last game we had. That isn’t Rams football at all, so guys showed up today.”

Eddie Herz can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @Eddie_Herz.