Head football coach Sonny Lubick had lots of praise for his Ram team at his weekly press conference Monday, but the 10th-year coach also handed out criticism.
Most importantly, he stressed that the team needed to improve defensively before taking on Colorado in Saturday’s Rocky Mountain Showdown.
“I’m proud of the football team for really hanging in there in the adverse conditions,” Lubick said. “It seemed like we were wilting as the game went on, especially so on defense. It seemed like we were out on the field probably 80 plays on defense which is way to many to be out there on defense, and that’s the defense’s fault.”
Statistically, CSU and Virginia played to a virtual draw. The Rams racked up 416 yards of total offense to UVa’s 414. The Cavaliers held possession for a total of 30:19 while the Rams had the ball for 29:41. However, after forcing the Cavaliers to punt on their first three possessions, the Rams had difficulty containing replacement quarterback Marques Hagans and Virginia’s rotation of running backs.
“We’ve got to get tougher. We must get better on defense,” Lubick said. “But when it was all said and done after the football game I was extremely pleased and proud of our players. We were up, we were down, it looked like we gave it away. But there was no quit on the sidelines, no quit on the field and we found a way to win the ball game.”
Lubick also praised the performance of sophomore kicker Jeff Babcock, who connected on five field goals in as many attempts from distances of 28, 27, 38, 46 and 28 yards. Babcock’s display is even more surprising considering he had not attempted a field goal for the Rams prior to the game. Lubick admitted that the decision to start Babcock at the position was made only a day before the game.
“He’s a champion,” Lubick said. “Jeff’s got the job, he saved us and that was just a gutsy performance on his part.”
ve field goals tied CSU and Mountain West Conference records for field goals in a game. Babcock also kicked off nine times during the game and gave UVa an average field position from their own 26-yard line.
Not so special
Despite Babcock’s performance, the Rams’ special teams play was not as successful as the coaches had expected it to be.
“(Special teams) was just okay. I guess we are so used to being extremely successful in that area,” Lubick said. “That’s an area I think we can improve upon.”
Defensive back and return specialist Dexter Wynn, a first-team all-Mountain West choice in 2001, ranked fifth nationally in punt returns last season. Against Virginia, Wynn had two punt returns for 24 yards and three kick returns for 89 yards. Senior punter Joey Huber punted three times and averaged 40.3 yards per kick.
Losing the handle
Virginia quarterback Marques Hagans’ fumble on the final play of the game was a fitting end to the game for the Cavaliers who committed five turnovers. The Rams fumbled five times, but managed to recover three of them for only two turnovers. During head coach Sonny Lubick’s 10 years, the Rams have a +51 turnover ratio and have scored 24 defensive touchdowns.
Cecil Sapp’s 178 yards rushing was a career high and his 72-yard run was the eighth longest scoring run in school history. Through Coach Lubick’s tenure, the Rams are 45-6 when a back gains over 100 yards and 29-28 with no 100-yard rusher. … Junior defensive end Andre Sommersell tied for the team lead with nine tackles, a career best. Safety David Vickers also had nine tackles for the Rams and senior defensive end Peter Hogan recorded two sacks. … Senior receiver Joey Cuppari caught four passes for 65 yards and a touchdown. The score was the first receiving touchdown for Cuppari since 2000 against Air Force. On the other side of the ball, the Ram’s held Virginia’s pre-season All-American wide receiver Billy McMullen to just three catches for 33 yards and no touchdowns.