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Special teams blunders cost Colorado State in loss to Utah State

A football sled on the Colorado State football practice field
A football sled on the Colorado State University football practice field Oct 17. (Gregory James | The Collegian)

Despite 159 rushing yards and two touchdowns from running back David Bailey, special teams in-organization cost Colorado State (3-4 overall, 2-1 conference) a victory Friday night, as the Rams fell to the Utah State University Aggies (5-2, 3-1) by a score of 26-24.

Quarterback Todd Centeio threw for 282 yards and a touchdown, while also throwing an interception. Gary Williams secured three catches for 80 yards and a touchdown, while Dante Wright caught four passes for 71 yards on the night.

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The Rams defensive front was solid throughout the contest, accumulating eight total sacks on the night. Despite heavy pressure up front, the secondary struggled to contain Aggie receivers Deven Thompkins and Derek Wright, with the duo combining for 167 yards and two touchdowns. Penalties also proved problematic for the Rams, as they accrued nine penalties for 86 yards in the contest.

After struggling last week against the University of New Mexico, Colorado State’s special teams woes would once again come to light late in the second quarter.

Turnovers plagued both teams early on, as the Rams and Aggies combined for three turnovers in the first quarter. Todd Centeio threw his first interception since week two against Vanderbilt University, breaking a streak of four straight games without a pick. Aggies quarterback Logan Bonner threw a pick of his own, as linebacker Cam’ron Carter came up with the interception for the Rams.

Following a Jaylen Thomas fumble, the Aggies struck first as Bonner found Derek Wright for a 25-yard touchdown, the first points of the game for either team. Colorado State responded with a 14 play, 78 yard scoring drive of their own, capped off by a four yard touchdown run by Bailey.

On fourth down and five from their own 38 yard line, the Aggies took advantage of Colorado State jumping offsides as Wright hauled in his second touchdown of the game on a deep pass from Bonner. However, the Rams would battle back, as Bailey led the offense down field and plunged two yards into the end zone for his second rushing score of the game. Bailey had a monster start, finishing the first half with 114 yards and two touchdowns.

After struggling last week against the University of New Mexico, Colorado State’s special teams woes would once again come to light late in the second quarter. Following a successful 45-yard field goal by Connor Coles, the Aggies recovered a pooch kick deep in Colorado State territory on the ensuing kickoff. Coles added a 30-yard field goal, giving Utah State a 20-14 lead heading into the halftime break, and marking the Aggies’ first halftime lead of the season.

Utah State carried momentum through the break marching 55 yards downfield on their first drive of the third quarter. After a pair of big sacks by Tywan Francis and Mohamed Kamara, the Rams forced the Aggies to settle for a 42-yard field goal, giving Utah a two-possession lead. Colorado State was held scoreless in the quarter.

The Colorado State offense came to life late in fourth, as the Rams made things close. Kicker Cayden Camper converted a 40-yard field goal, and Centeio found Williams for a 13-yard touchdown on the following possession, bringing the Rams within a field goal of the Aggies.

The Rams marched down field in the final minute of the game, setting up a potential game-winning field goal for Camper. However, a costly coaching blunder proved to be devastating for Colorado State; instead of spiking the ball to stop the clock and set up an easy field goal, the special teams unit rushed onto the field in a panic and forced a hurried snap. Without proper time to set up for the kick, Camper missed the 42-yard field goal as time wound down with the fiasco ultimately costing Colorado State the victory.

The loss marks the first Mountain West conference loss of the season for Colorado State. The Rams continue their stretch of conference games at home next Saturday against Boise State University.

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Jeremiah Janzen can be reached at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @JeremiahJanzen.

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