As those watching awaited a final obligatory fourth down measurement, Mike MacIntyre’s celebratory fist pumps gave Colorado State fans a final punch to the gut.
It was 2006 when Colorado State was last favored to beat in-state rival Colorado. This was again the case prior to the matchup this past weekend, where the Rams were 2.5-point favorites. In what was the 85th meeting of the two teams, the Rocky Mountain Showdown again witnessed the prevailing of an underdog rookie head coach following Jim McElwain’s victory a season ago.
Successful coaching is reliant on the execution of players on the field, however, and execute Colorado junior wideout Paul Richardson did. The Rams and the rest of the country didn’t see Richardson last year due a preseason ACL tear, but he put the college football community on notice with a dazzling performance.
Another Colorado captain, quarterback Connor Wood, did his part to clinch the Centennial Cup for the Buffs as well. Wood completed 33 of 46 passes for 400 yards and three touchdowns including an 82-yard hookup with Richardson. MacIntyre appears to have inherited quite the duo.
On the other sideline, the Rams special teams unit did their best to help make up for struggling offense that was unable to piece plays and drives together.
An inability to convert on third down continued to haunt the Rams, as was the case last season. The Rams only converted on two of fourteen third down tries and were seemingly rolling out the red carpet for the Buffaloes offense. Coach McElwain understood that this was one of the main issues that contributed to the loss and after the game he noted succinctly, “Offensively we didn’t do a very good job of keeping our defense off the field.”
Improvement on third downs will be crucial for success going forward.. In the second quarter, a Garrett Grayson pass to Joe Hansley on third down extended a drive that was eventually capped off by a Kapri Bibbs seven-yard run for a touchdown. That score brought the Rams back to within a touchdown of what was at that point setting up to be a blowout. The only other third down conversion came on a penalty, however, and a Hansley punt return TD wasn’t enough to mask the offensive shortcomings.
Taking care of the ball was one of the top priorities for CSU this season and it didn’t take long for Colorado to prove the Rams may still be a work in progress in that area. Despite scoring two touchdowns of his own, a crucial Bibbs fumble on the first possession of the fourth quarter turned into a backbreaking score for the opposition as Greg Henderson took one home for the Buffs.
The Rams fourth quarter woes continued when Garrett Grayson threw another third down incomplete pass. Although the team was still able to put three points on the board, it allowed the explosive Colorado offense to return to the field with plenty of time for Paul Richardson to strike again. It only took ten seconds for Wood and Richardson to connect, this time for a 75-yard touchdown that further silenced the Ram Ruckus in the Northeast stands with each stride.
Colorado State went four and out one last time as Colorado took to the field to celebrate as they retain bragging rights for at least one year.
With the poor offense performance, it was still nice to see the team put up 27 points in the loss.
The special teams unit did their job as they had two big returns in the second half that helped keep the game close..
Although the defense couldn’t get off the field, the linebacking unit played with fire (possibly having to do with Joey Porter).
Speaking of the new coach, it didn’t take long for Joey Porter to get into a referees face as he argued against a ridiculous call, nearly leading to an ejection.
Taking care of the ball was the breaking point for the Rams. The crowd was crazy after the punt return, but turning the ball over is a surefire way to deflate them. With the fans CSU has, the crowd can really make a difference.
Third down conversions still haunt the team. Teams don’t often win when the offense is only on the field for 25 minutes.
Coming Up for CSU:
Up next for the Rams is a trip to Tulsa to take on the Golden Hurricanes. Tulsa is coming off a 34-7 loss to Bowling Green who has one of the best defenses in the FBS, so the Rams can’t afford to sleep on a seemingly inferior Conference USA opponent.