COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – It was the unlikeliest of heroes that blew the game open for the Rams Thursday night. It wasn’t the quarterback, nor was it the running back that put CSU’s lead out of reach of the Air Force Falcons.
It was place kicker Jeff Babcock who scooped up a fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half and took it to the end zone to put CSU up 28-12. The Rams never looked back.
“I didn’t know what I was doing to tell you the truth, it was kind of just instinct,” Babcock said of the 29-yard fumble recovery. “I was just shell-shocked. I didn’t realize until the next kickoff that I had scored. It’s not something that happens everyday.”
And it’s not everyday that the Rams’ place kicker scores all their points in the second half. Between his touchdown, extra-point and 27-yard field goal to start the fourth quarter, Babcock accounted for all 10 of CSU’s points after halftime.
For Babcock’s teammates, the play not only brought them to their feet, but also brought some comic relief after witnessing something they never expected to see.
“That was unbelievable,” said receiver Joey Cuppari, who also serves as Babcock’s holder on kicks. “I already told all the other guys I didn’t think he was that athletic. He didn’t even change his stride, he just picked it up and went. That was just a great play on his part.”
Babcock said he knew he was going to hear about his athletic form, or lack there of, from his teammates the moment he returned to the sideline.
“A couple guys said I was slow, a couple guys said I broke away and a lot of guys said no one was chasing me, so I don’t know,” Babcock said.
For 41 years prior to Thursday night, no CSU kicker had crossed the goal line for a touchdown. The last man to accomplish the unusual feat was Ron Kaaneke in 1961. The Rams weren’t even playing in Hughes Stadium at that time.
“Fourty-one years? Wow,” Babcock said. “Well, I hope I get to do it a couple more times. I still don’t know what happened, I don’t know if the guy just fumbled or someone made a hit. I probably owe someone a pizza or something for causing the fumble.”
Babcock will have to order that pie for freshman David Foley, who forced Air Force’s Bryan Blew to fumble on the kickoff. The ball bounced several times and appeared to be going out of bounds before Babcock picked it up in stride.
The Rams’ place kicker had made it a habit of sprinting down the field and trying to make a play on his own kickoff, and this time, it paid off.
“I’ve never seen that,” head coach Sonny Lubick said. “I didn’t know who it was at first, I thought it was Benny Mastropaolo and then they told me it was our kicker and he just scooped it up. He happened to in the right place and scored. That was huge for us because that put us up by three scores.”
In the locker room, Cuppari had no trouble summing up his feelings on Babcock’s miraculous play:
“I don’t know what to think – he’s a kicker.”
Edited by Jon Ackerman and Josh Hardin