On Homecoming, in front of a sellout crowd, the Rams wanted revenge on their rival Air Force.
The Falcons had won eight of the last nine games in the series, including last year’s heartbreaker in Colorado Springs which followed a 14-point fourth quarter comeback by the Rams. Air Force won in the end on a field goal, the last game Jim McElwain coached CSU.
Colorado State got that revenge Saturday, winning in convincing 38-23 fashion.
The Rams started out on fire, when Nick Stevens connected with tight end Steven Walker for a 23-yard touchdown and the 7-0 lead. After Air Force fullback Shayne Davern took a run 60 yards to the house, but the extra point was missed, CSU led 7-6. The Rams scored again, this time on a Stevens to Joe Hansley catch and run for 13 yards behind solid blocking. The Falcons fought back and Jacobi Owens ran in from 12 yards out to bring the game to 14-13 CSU.
But just before halftime, Stevens came alive and led his offense down the field, capping the drive with a 44-yard touchdown to Hansley and the 21-13 lead going into the break. That drive was important, as it started off three straight scoring stanzas.
In the third quarter, Jasen Oden Jr. started carrying Colorado State on his back, scoring twice on determined runs, and a Wyatt Bryan field goal gave CSU the 38-13 advantage. While Air Force kept hanging in there, scoring two more touchdowns, it was too little, too late.
STAR OF THE GAME
Jasen Oden Jr. is one of the stars once again, just as he was in the win over the UTSA Roadrunners three weeks ago. Oden and his “never say die” running carried the ball 11 times for 89 yards with the two touchdowns. He fought for every inch he earned, pushing the pile and finding a way to will the Rams to a win.
Nick Stevens, with his 296 passing yards — a career-high — and three touchdowns, is the other star for CSU.
PLAY OF THE GAME
When Stevens found a wide open Hansley running alone for the 44-yard touchdown just before halftime, it was the play of the day. That touchdown pushed the lead up to eight and gave the Rams a cushion to lean on to start the second half.
The turning point came when Tyree Simmons picked off Air Force quarterback Karson Roberts in the early third quarter. Colorado State had just scored two straight touchdowns and were up 28-13 when the Falcons started driving. But when Simmons stole the ball out of the air, it ended Air Force’s drive and the Rams offense were able to answer with a score of their own.
BY THE NUMBERS
Air Force ran well like always, for 264 total yards, while Colorado State did nicely themselves, with 161 on the day.
Rashard Higgins finished with seven receptions for 74 yards, an improvement from last week’s three catches and only 43 yards in the blowout loss to the Boise State Broncos. Joe Hansley’s day was more impressive than “Hollywood’s” though, as Hansley caught three passes for 75 yards and two touchdowns.
Hansley also had a 75-yard punt return touchdown taken off the board due to a block below the waist penalty.
Jasen Oden finished with 11 carries for 89 yards, but not to be forgotten is Dalyn Dawkins, who carried the ball 15 times for 47 yards, accompanied by three receptions for 35 yards as well.
For Nick Stevens, the 296 yards passing were a new career-high. He went 23-30 for those 296 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
The Rams won the turnover battle 3-1, the first time in three weeks they came out on top of that all-important stat.
QUOTE OF THE GAME
“Big momentum builder,” senior receiver Joe Hansley said after the win. “I kept saying, ‘You can’t gain momentum without winning.’ So now we got this win, we’re starting to click as an offense, defense is playing great. I’m excited to see where we go the next few weeks.”
This was a much-need win for the Rams both this season and in the rivalry between the two teams. CSU has now won 2-3 games against Air Force and the Ram-Falcon Trophy is back to where it belongs, its home in Fort Collins.
This win was massive on the season because Colorado State now improves to 3-4 (1-2 MW) before their bye next week. A win means their bowl hopes are still alive and well and morale should be soaring.
Next week, Colorado State has a bye week. In two weeks, on Halloween, they host the San Diego State Aztecs (3-3, 2-0 MW) at 1:30 p.m. MT in Fort Collins.