Rams football steals win over Hawai’i behind standout freshmen

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Collegian | Michael Marquardt

The Colorado State University football team lines up at the beginning of a play during Rams’ game against the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Oct. 22. CSU won 17-13.

Braidon Nourse, Sports Editor

A week after the Colorado State University Rams (2-5, 2-1) football team dropped its Homecoming game to Utah State University 17-13, they stole a 17-13 win of their own against the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa (2-6, 1-2) in the final few minutes of the game.

“I just can’t really say enough about how our defense is playing. Our defense is playing outstanding football.” -Jay Norvell, CSU football head coach

All eyes were on redshirt freshman quarterback Clay Millen’s return to play after being out for multiple weeks due to a shoulder injury. Although the windy conditions and the consistent double coverage of standout receiver Tory Horton slowed the passing game, Millen showed up with his legs, running for 53 yards on nine scrambles.

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“(Millen) has a calmness on the field that settles everybody else down,” said head coach Jay Norvell. “He makes good decisions with the ball. … I thought he really made good decisions on running the ball.”

With Horton finding himself double-teamed or in tight coverage for most of the game, Millen had to look for other sure-handed ball catchers. True freshman Justus Ross-Simmons proved to be a nice target for Millen, hauling in all four of his targets for 64 yards. 

Louis Brown, a true freshman wide receiver, was another capable young target for Millen, catching four of his five targets for a total of 24 yards. Down 13-10 on 2nd and 6 on Hawai’i’s 16 yard line, Brown took a reverse pitch 6 yards for a first after looking dead in the water with a defender in his face. 

Brown’s extra effort on the play set up first and goal from the 10-yard line, and running back Avery Morrow punched it in on the very next play, breaking multiple tackles on his way to the end zone. Morrow’s second touchdown of the day put the Rams up 17-13 after Michael Boyle’s extra point.

“Avery Morrow was just again very, very strong,” Norvell said. “Hard runner, had another great run at the end of the game … just would not go down.”

What a day it was for Morrow, who rushed for more than 100 yards for the third game in a row, tallying 147 yards on the day. Early on in the game, he broke out for a 67-yard rush down to Hawai’i’s 2-yard line.

But it was the Rams’ defensive efforts that stopped the Rainbow Warriors in their tracks during the second half to set up more offensive opportunities. After giving up all 13 of Hawai’i’s points in the first half, the Rams only allowed 38 yards for the entire second half.

Both offenses were solid in keeping the ball – save for multiple failed 4th down attempts from CSU – and did not turn the ball over until the last minute of the game. Up 17-13 with less than a minute left, Hawai’i’s Brayden Schager threw a bullet pass over the middle, but was intercepted by CSU’s Ayden Hector, sealing the Rams’ first win at home in more than a year.

“I just can’t really say enough about how our defense is playing,” Norvell said. “Our defense is playing outstanding football.”

CSU improves to 2-1 in conference play, and will look to build a winning streak next week, as they travel to Idaho to take on Boise State University Oct. 29. 

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Reach Braidon Nourse at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @BraidonNourse.