The cardiac kids’ life on the edge finally caught up with them. In Fresno, Calif., the No. 25-ranked Ram football team fell behind early in its final non-conference game of the year.
Trailing in the fourth quarter for the second game in a row, it appeared that CSU was on the verge of another late come back against Fresno State. The Rams pulled within two points of the Bulldogs after Cecil Sapp’s touchdown with one minute left in the game. Needing the two-point conversion to tie, Bradlee Van Pelt’s pass to the end zone was knocked away and the ensuing on-side kick failed, sealing the 32-30 defeat and dropping the Rams to 4-2 on the season.
“We hurt ourselves,” said Rams’ Head Coach Sonny Lubick, whose team amassed 466 total yards. “A lot of yards doesn’t mean a darn thing if you don’t score points. No one in the locker room feels good about this. We gotta come back and we gotta shake this thing off.”
The thorn in the side of the Rams this game was the special teams’ play. Usually one of CSU’s strengths, the Rams special teams units gave up a punt return for a touchdown, had a field goal blocked and allowed a safety after an errant snap flew over the head of punter Joey Huber and into the end zone.
After CSU’s dominating opening drive was capped off by Van Pelt’s 35-yard toss to Joey Cuppari, it appeared the Rams would have a cakewalk for their fifth victory of the season. However, the Bulldogs took over the game and proceeded to score 17 unanswered points en route to a 29-point first half.
Fresno State managed to score five points in the final 30 seconds of the first half after backup long-snapper John Van Lant – who replaced starting snapper Joel Dreessen after he went down with an ankle injury – snapped the ball into the end zone for a safety. The Bulldogs fielded the ensuing punt and marched to the CSU 11-yard line with one second left and kicked a field goal to go up 29-14 at the half.
“The win’s great – they’re hard to get,” Fresno State Head Coach Pat Hill said. “That’s a good football team we played tonight.”
Whatever the Rams’ coaches told the players in the locker room at halftime, it worked. CSU’s defense held the Bulldogs to a field goal for the entire half as the Rams battled back with several big plays.
Van Pelt tossed a 70-yard touchdown pass to freshman receiver David Anderson midway through the third quarter. Van Pelt finished the day with 125 yards and a touchdown on the ground and threw for 214 yards and two touchdowns. With time winding down in the fourth quarter, Jeff Babcock kicked a 31-yard field goal to pull the Rams within eight points.
As it had for most of the second half, the CSU defense buckled down and stopped the Bulldogs’ offense on the next drive, forcing Fresno to punt to Dexter Wynn, who made his longest punt return of the game to the Fresno 28-yard-line. But despite the strong scoring drive that pulled the Rams within two points after Sapp’s one-yard touchdown, the comeback was not to be. Trying to catch the Fresno State defense off guard, the CSU coaches called for a pass on the two-point conversion that was ultimately batted down.
“The biggest problem with our game today was ourselves,” Rams’ linebacker Drew Wood said. “You can shoot yourself in the foot, but we shot ourselves in the head.”