This crazy game we love.
Colorado State couldn’t get anything going on offense Saturday night in Fresno, California, but their special teams propelled them to three touchdowns and the 34-31 victory to finish off the Rams regular season with a win.
At halftime, Joe Hansley had 136 return yards – including two punt return touchdowns – while the Rams offense totaled a mere 120 yards and no scores. CSU trailed 14-24 thanks to Hansley’s two scores – including the every-which-way return in the final seconds of the half – though the rest of the team was simply atrocious.
The second half started out much like the first half ended, with Kevin Nutt Jr. taking the opening kickoff 96-yards to the house to bring Colorado State to within four points at 20-24 when the extra point was blocked and returned to the Rams 10. Then, late in the third quarter, the offense finally came together. Jasen Oden pushed the team downfield and Izzy Matthews’ 39-yard touchdown run gave the Rams their first lead at 27-24 since 7-3.
Then Fresno State punched back, with a Marteze Waller’s first touchdown of the day, to go ahead 31-27. Finally, Joe Hansley scored for a third time when Nick Stevens found him open in the middle of the field, to push CSU back in the lead 34-31, which was the eventual winning score.
Following Fresno State’s first unsuccessful drive, Joe Hansley returned the punt 75 yards to the house for the 7-0 CSU lead. The Bulldogs marched quickly down field but were held to a 33-yard field goal and the Rams held onto the 7-3 lead. But before the end of the first quarter, quarterback David Anderson juked defensive back Justin Sweet on his way to the end zone for the 10-7 Fresno lead. Then, Rams quarterback Nick Stevens was intercepted and the ball was returned to the half yard line, where it was run in to push the Bulldogs lead to 17-7 midway through the second quarter. Dustin Garrison rushed for an 11-yard score to give Fresno State their biggest lead of the day at 24-7; and for some, it seemed over. Then, with 42 seconds left in the half, Hansley ran left, right, backwards and then 61 yards to the house for a second time to bring the game to 24-14 at halftime.
Nutt’s electric 96-yard kickoff return kept the Rams momentum rolling, though the extra point was nearly returned to the house by Fresno State, saved by Joe Kawulok’s hustle. After a slow third quarter in which neither team could score, Jasen Oden turned it on and ran strong, pushing the Rams downfield in a hurry while Matthews’ 39-yard touchdown was the 75-yard drive capper. Fresno State battled back; Marteze Waller wouldn’t be denied a touchdown a great day of running for him personally, and the Bulldogs took the 31-27 lead with 12:58 remaining in regulation. CSU immediately marched back down the gridiron and when Stevens found Hansley for the senior receiver’s third touchdown of the day, it was enough for the 34-31 victory. In the end, Matthews helped run out the clock and the team finished with a few victory formations.
STARS OF THE GAME
Joe Hansley is without a doubt the No. 1 star of the game. He enjoyed three touchdowns, two of them on punt returns, and another on a reception. He finished with three catches for 46 yards and the score through the air with 136 yards on punt returns with two more scores.
Izzy Matthews’ rough running was enough to salt away the win for the Rams in the end. The true freshman went over 100 yards for the first time in his short career and ended the contest with 18 carries for 140 yards and the touchdown.
PLAY OF THE GAME
The play of the game was Hansley’s second punt return touchdown. Because, at that point, nothing positive had happened for the Rams besides his first punt return touchdown of the day. They were facing a 24-7 deficit with the end of the first half looming when Hansley returned his second punt for a touchdown to bring the game to 24-14 at the break. Without that touchdown, there’s hardly a chance CSU makes a 17-point comeback in the second half.
The turning point came with Matthews’ 39-yard touchdowns in the third quarter. Finally, the Rams offense awoke and they took the lead for the first time since the first quarter. From then on, the offense clicked as Matthews broke the century mark for the first time in his young career with 140 yards.
BY THE NUMBERS
The three return touchdowns for Colorado State were the most in one game in 10 seasons of college football. For Hansley, the first return touchdown was his first since Sept. 1, 2013 against Colorado. Nutt’s return was his first touchdown of his career.
The 140 yards running were a career-high for Matthews, the true freshman running back.
261 of the Rams 346 total yards were on the ground, or 75.4 percent of their production from the run.
Mike Bobo becomes the first ever Colorado State head coach to win seven regular season games in his first season.
Here’s Bobo taking a Gatorade shower in celebration:
— Rich Kurtzman (@RichKurtzman) November 29, 2015
Bobo is the first coach to win seven games in his first season with the team; that’s big. It also means the Colorado State Rams are 7-5 on the regular season, continuing the winning trend. That’s three straight winning seasons with a combined record of 24-13 in the regular season or a 64.9 winning percentage. Enjoy it Ram fans, this is a wonderful winning era.
Next, Colorado State waits to hear which bowl game they’ll participate in. The selection show takes place on Sunday, Dec. 7 and begins at 10:30 a.m. MT on ESPN.