DENVER – Not much went the way CSU head coach Sonny Lubick thought it would Saturday.
What didn’t surprise him was the never-say-die attitude of his football team.
“I felt going into the game it was going to be a low scoring ball game,” Lubick said at a press conference Monday.
Instead, the University of Colorado beat the Rams 42-35 in a rain-slogged shootout in front of 76,219 fans at Invesco Field at Mile High. It was the largest crowd ever to watch a college football game in Colorado
CU came in with a quarterback that had not started a football game since 1999 in high school. Their strength offensively was supposed to be an experienced and successful running game.
But CU quarterback Joel Klatt torched the Rams to the tune of 402 yards passing and four touchdowns. The Buffaloes hit touchdown passes from 82, 45 and 78 yards after their running game was shut down by the Rams defense in the first quarter.
“(Klatt) didn’t get rattled,” said CU head coach Gary Barnett. “He had total composure the whole game.”
Lubick said the defense gave Klatt, a former minor league baseball player, respect; however, he thought there was “no way” Klatt would throw for as much as he did.
“(The) secondary didn’t step up too well today,” said senior strong safety Benny Mastropaolo. “We were expecting more run, I believe, than pass.”
Mastropaolo said most of the mistakes made by the secondary were due to first-game jitters and are easily correctable. Senior cornerback Dexter Wynn agreed.
“It was just mental breakdowns,” Wynn said. “We’ve seen all those routes on film.”
Lubick said sophomore Adam Hayward and redshirt freshmen Lukas Davis and Brandon Cathy could see playing time in the secondary against the University of California Saturday.
CU’s strength was supposed to be their defense, where they returned eight starters. However, CSU quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt’s 339 yards passing set a career high.
“I definitely didn’t think CSU would throw the ball as well as they did,” said CU linebacker Sean Tufts.
Junior running back Marcus Houston lit up his former team, carrying the ball 15 times for 104 yards. Van Pelt and starting running back Rahsaan Sanders were also effective in the running game as the Rams piled up 246 yards rushing.
Lubick said he was pleased with the balance on offense.
“If we could do that (every week), I’d be a happy camper,” Lubick said.
CSU took a 7-0 lead out of a first quarter dominated by the Rams except for four CSU penalties totaling 40 yards. The Buffs offense exploded in the second quarter, scoring 28 points and gaining 265 yards in total offense.
CSU continued to move the ball, however, as Van Pelt hit senior wide receiver Chris Pittman on a 32-yard touchdown pass. Pittman set a school record for receiving yards in an opening game with 144 yards on seven catches.
CSU kicker Jeff Babcock could not get over his slump at Invesco, missing two field goals from 32 and 47 yards in the second quarter. Babcock is 0-for-4 in field goals against CU the past two years.
“I’m just real discouraged right now,” Babcock said after the game. “I need to look at the tape and see if there’s anything that I did really wrong and just work on it and find a way to put this out of my mind.”
CU took a 28-14 lead into the third quarter. They kept the lead at 14 when a 78-yard touchdown pass from Klatt to Derek McCoy with 3:11 left in the third quarter made the score 35-21. Shortly after, a 28-minute delay ensued due to heavy lighting and rain.
CSU came out firing after the delay, scoring on a 33-yard pass to sophomore David Anderson to cut the lead to seven. Van Pelt atoned for a fourth-quarter interception when he ran 30 yards on the option to tie the game 35-35 with 1:50 left.
That proved to be more than enough time for the Buffs, as Klatt hit Jeremy Bloom for a 33-yard pass and running back Bobby Purify ran in the winning score with 40 seconds left.
Van Pelt’s Hail Mary on the last play fell to the ground just in front of the end zone.
“I’m disappointed,” Van Pelt said after the game. “We came to win but lost. That’s life.”
CSU is headed to Berkeley, Calif., on Saturday to take on the Golden Bears. Lubick is confident the Rams can fix their mistakes, but is “frightened” by a Bears team that scored 28 points in a loss against No. 7 Kansas State and beat Southern Mississippi 34-2 Saturday.