Everything was slipping away. After building a 36-14 lead with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Rams football team gave up 19 unanswered points to a surging Louisville Cardinals team.
Clinging to a three-point lead, the CSU defense once again stopped an opponent on the final drive to hold on for the win. What was a blowout turned into a sigh of relief for the Rams and a 36-33 victory.
“We’re controlling the game, then I look up and we’re behind 14-7,” Rams’ Head Coach Sonny Lubick said. “Then we come back to lead at the half, we get up a few points, but suddenly their back in it. I’m thinking, ‘This is fun, this is the way football should be.'”
The Rams controlled the game for three quarters Saturday night and it looked as if CSU was finally ready to put a team away. Running back Cecil Sapp turned in a dominating performance racking up 134 yards on 30 carries and three touchdowns and allowed the Rams to control the flow of the game.
“They’re an awful good football team,” Cardinals’ Head Coach John L. Smith said. “Maybe we gave them too much, but tonight we’re definitely not as good as they are.”
Quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt put in a solid performance with 170 yards through the air. The junior starter was assisted by his freshman backup Justin Holland who saw his first action of the season. Holland directed two scoring drives and threw for 94 yards.
Those performances resulted in a 22-point advantage midway through the fourth quarter. But that was when everything fell apart for the Rams. After Louisville quarterback Dave Ragone led a 12-play, 84 yard scoring drive, the Cardinals recovered an on-side kick and quickly put in another score to narrow the score to 36-26.
The Rams appeared to be in control after they recovered another on-side kick attempt, but on the ensuing drive, Sapp coughed up his second fumble of the game and Montavious Stanley returned it to the two-yard line. Two plays later, the Cardinals pumped in another score and trailed by only three points.
“It should never come down to that,” Van Pelt said. “I don’t know why, if it’s our team or just our luck. Things like that happen, that’s the game of football.”
A quick three-and-out by the Rams offense resulted in a punt that pinned the Cardinals on their own one-yard-line. Louisville faced a daunting task of driving 99 yards with no timeouts. They made it to the 26-yard line before Rhett Nelson broke up Ragone’s fourth-down pass to seal the victory for the Rams.