When Senior Day kicked off, Colorado State looked like they were going to walk with an easy win Saturday at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium; it was anything but.
The UNLV Rebels took every punch the Rams handed out and even hit CSU back in the mouth. After Colorado State jumped to a 7-0 lead, the Rebels stormed back to score 14 straight and take the lead. But the Rams tied the game up at 14 and then took the 35-21 lead to start the second half; they never looked back in the commanding 49-35 victory.
CSU jumped out to the 7-0 lead when Nick Stevens connected with Steven Walker for 69 yards which set up a nine-yard fade touchdown to Rashard “Hollywood” Higgins. UNLV struck right back, when Blake Decker found Kendal Keys in the end zone to tie it up at 7-7. Following a Stevens interception, the Rebels ran the exact same play to score again and take the 14-7 lead. And just before the end of the first quarter, Jasen Oden scored a touchdown on the ground from 17 yards out to knot it all up at 14.
Colorado State took the lead back when Stevens found Dalyn Dawkins outside and the speedy running back glided into the end zone untouched. And it was tied again, this time at 21-21, when Kurt Palandech – the backup quarterback – scored on a 14-yard run with speed on his first play. Starting Rebels QB Decker was injured on the play before when Deonte Clyburn hit and crumpled him on the turf.
UNLV's starting quarterback Blake Decker left the field on crutches. Not looking good for the Rebels QB 1 pic.twitter.com/zXfnLGWD0D
— Travis Green (@ItsTravisGreen) November 15, 2015
Then, just before halftime, Nu’uvali Fa’apito fell into the end zone from one inch out put the Rams ahead 28-21 at the break.
To start the second half, Colorado State scored again, this time from Stevens to Higgins eight yards on a drag route across the back of the end zone for the 35-21 lead. UNLV wouldn’t quit on the game; Palandech connected with Keys for the wideout’s third touchdown of the day and the Rebels trailed 28-35 with 2:16 left in the third quarter.
But, mid-way through the fourth quarter, there was “Hollywood” Higgins again; Stevens found him on a fade in the end zone to push the lead back to two scores at 42-28 CSU. The Rams looked to run the clock out and instead ran for another touchdown; Fa’apito scored again for the 49-28 lead. But UNLV put another touchdown on the board themselves, a 32-yard run by Lexington Thomas for the 49-35 final.
STARS OF THE GAME
Colorado’s first star of the game was Rashard Higgins. He finished the game with seven receptions for 102 yards and three touchdowns. It was Higgins’ first multi-touchdown game of the season.
The second star was Dalyn Dawkins, who ran 19 times for 151 yards for a superb 8.6 yards per carry average. It was a new career-high for the running back, who had 140 in last week’s win over Wyoming.
PLAY OF THE GAME
When Stevens found Higgins on the bootleg rollout in the back of the end zone to take the 35-21 lead to start the second half, it was the play of the game. With that score, the Rams were ahead two scores again, keeping the pesky Rebels at bay.
The turning point came late in the second quarter when Blake Decker was injured and Kurt Palandech came in. The Rams scored 14 straight points to take the lead by two touchdowns. But, Palandech, a more run-first quarterback, actually showed off his arm when he connected with Kendal Keys for a big touchdown.
BY THE NUMBERS
Colorado State ran the ball for 171 yards in the first half alone; they average 171 yards per game. When it was all said and done, the 326 rushing yards were easily the most for CSU all season.
Nick Stevens’ 69 yard pass to Steven Walker in the first quarter and his 46-yard pass later in the game were the first and third longest plays for CSU all year, respectively. Stevens finished with 209 passing yards with four touchdowns and one interception.
Rashard Higgins had seven catches for 102 yards and three scores.
Kendal Keys for UNLV also had three touchdowns in the game, with six total catches for 87 yards.
For Dawkins, it was the second straight game going over 100 yards running the ball.
Colorado State went 9-9 in the red zone in the game while UNLV went 4-4 on their red zone scoring opportunities.
It was only the third time this year CSU scored to start both the first and second halves of the game; all three times (Savannah State, UTSA) the Rams won.
All told, both teams combined for 1,037 yards.
With the win, Colorado State improves to 5-5 on the season and 3-3 in the Mountain West. Their bowl dreams stay alive with the victory and they now only need to win one of the last two games to become bowl eligible. It was a massive offensive game which should give Dawkins, Stevens and Higgins confidence. Of course, on the flip side, the Rams defense has much to work on after this one.
Next up for Colorado State is a road game at the University of New Mexico. The Lobos are 5-4 and currently playing Boise State. CSU – UNM takes place Saturday, Nov. 21 and kickoff is scheduled at 3:30 p.m. MT.