DENVER (AP) - Colorado State thought it had the ball and momentum in its biggest game of the young season.
Instead the Rams fumbled away a great opportunity that cost them the lead and ultimately the game in a 28-14 loss to rival Colorado on Saturday.
``We're disappointed,' Colorado State coach Steve Fairchild said.
Colorado has won the last two games in the series and eight of the last 11.
The game turned with 1:40 left in the first half. Colorado State's Joe McKay got a hand on Darragh O'Neill's punt, the ball bounced for 11 yards and CSU's Eric Niederberger tried to pounce on it, only to watch it squib away from him and into the hands of Colorado's Ryan Deehan.
``That was a huge momentum change,' defensive tackle Nuku Latu said. ``Special teams can win the game and lose the game. After that play the momentum went down.'
The Buffaloes (1-2) didn't waste the opportunity. They drove deep into Colorado State territory, and Tyler Hansen's 24-yard strike to Kyle Cefalo with 12 seconds left in the first half gave them a 14-7 lead at the break.
``We wanted to knock them out of field goal range, so I ran a stunt and the quarterback got out of the pocket,' Rams defensive coordinator Larry Kerr said. ``I wish I would have gone with a straight rush, because if we contain him then they have to kick a field goal. That one really hurt.'
The Rams (2-1) looked sharp early. They scored on quarterback Pete Thompson's 4-yard scamper on the first drive of the game to lead 7-0. But their offense sputtered after that and managed just 67 yards rushing all afternoon.
They finished with 243 total yards.
``I should have made more plays in the pass game; maybe we should have made a few more plays in the run game,' Thomas said. ``We can't play like that and expect to beat a team like CU.'
The Rams were playing without two of their top defenders. Standout senior linebacker Mychal Sisson broke his right ankle last week and watched on crutches from the sideline with pass-rusher Broderick Sargent, who tore an ACL in CSU's opener.
``It's a big loss,' Latu said of Sisson's absence. ``Everybody's feeling it throughout the locker room and on the playing field. That's just something we've got to overcome. The first game without him we didn't get the job done.
After the opening drive Colorado brought its safeties closer to the line of scrimmage to stop the Rams' running game. The adjustment worked. The Buffs' defensive backs were able to hold the Colorado State receivers in check.
``It's not that they're DBs were good, it's just that we weren't getting separation,' receiver Lee Clubb said. ``It seemed like we couldn't throw anything over the middle because they had two really good safeties. When we went outside they were pushing us out of bounds.'
With Colorado State struggling offensively, Colorado grabbed the momentum.
The Buffs tied it on Hansen's 2-yard keeper with 2:47 left in the first half before the botched blocked punt led to the go-ahead score.
In the third quarter, Hansen hit Toney Clemons for a 44-yard score when free safety Austin Gray was beaten badly to make it 21-7.
Colorado State got back into it with some trickery. Rams wide receiver Charles Lovett took a quick pass from Thomas in the left flat and threw a perfect 23-yard touchdown pass to tight end Crockett Gillmore early in the fourth quarter to make it 21-14.
``We worked on it all week in practice and (it) didn't work once,' Gillmore said.
After the teams traded punts, Colorado put together a 16-play, 85-yard drive that ate up more than 10 minutes. Hansen capped the drive with a 2-yard run that gave the Buffs a 28-14 lead with 1:15 left.
``That was very embarrassing on defense,' defensive end Nordly Capi said. ``To have the ball over seven minutes is very embarrassing, but to have it 10 minutes, it's very disappointing.'
The Rams thought they had put Colorado in a third-and-long situation midway through the drive, but Capi was called for a facemask penalty on running back Rodney Stewart. That gave the Buffs a first down at Colorado State's 44.
``I thought we had them,' Fairchild said. ``Nuku busts through and it's hard to blame him; he's making a play in the backfield.'
Nine plays later, Hansen sealed the win.
The Associated Press News Service
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