FORT COLLINS – A big game, a big opportunity, both lost Saturday night.
Colorado State could have won this game – the most important football contest they've participated in for years – but they let it slip through their fingers.
The Rams were hot to start, scoring a field goal on their first, well-assembled first drive, and after Shaquil Barrett recovered a fumble, CSU put a touchdown on the board. It was a 10-0 lead, fans, players and coaches alike were ecstatic.
But Boise State didn't panic. The Broncos scored two straight touchdowns – one a run by quarterback Gran Hedrick, another a pass from Hedrick to Geraldo Boldewijin – to take the 14-10 lead.
CSU battled back when Garrett Grayson found Charles Lovett on the four yard line, and Lovett reached the ball over the goal line for the score, but those were the last points the team would score for nearly two quarters.
Boise scored 28 straight points to widen their lead to 42-17 and the Rams made the score more respectable with two late but too little touchdowns. The Broncos scored on a 68-yard bomb as well as a 42-yard pass during that scoring stretch, as the big play burned the Rams once again.
“There were some good things that happened in that game and, obviously, some disappointing things. We've got to continue to learn and grow,” head coach Jim McElwain said after the loss.
“There comes a point where you look yourself in the mirror and say, 'I'm going to go compete.' That's the bottom line,” McElwain answered the one question he fielded, then stormed out of the press area.
A win would have meant improving to 5-4 – with a three-game winning streak – and having a chance to win the Mountain Division of their Mountain West Conference. Now, at 4-5 and Boise State leading the division at 6-3, the Rams' chances of accomplishing that feat have diminished.
But, it's not all lost.
Colorado State still put up amazing offensive numbers – 626 total yards of offense and 40 minutes of time of possession – though the multiple deep passing plays given up and two turnovers doomed the Rams.
CSU could still make a bowl game, though, which Grayson said after tonight's loss has been a goal all season long. All the Rams have to do is somehow win three of their four final games, which isn't out of the question.
Colorado State faces 3-6 Nevada next week in Fort Collins, which will be a must-win game.
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist. Follow Rich on Twitter (@RichKurtzman) for all your CSU Rams news and opinion.