Nov 302003
 
Authors: Vince Blaser

LAS VEGAS – In a city littered with pawnshops where people sell

off their digital cameras to try to get back the money they lost

gambling, the CSU football team tried to salvage their season with

a win against Nevada-Las Vegas.

Their 24-23 thrilling comeback win not only gave CSU a birth in

the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl on New Year’s Eve, it showed

Ram fans that the future looks pretty bright.

When quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt went out with a broken hand in

the second half, it looked like the Rams would suffer the same fate

as all those poor saps, including myself, who come home from Sin

City “so close” to winning. It looked eerily similar to fourth

quarter losses to Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico.

But the fortunes of the Rams’ season changed when UNLV kicker

Dillon Pieffer missed a 33-yard field goal with 2:38 to play and

UNLV ahead 23-17.

“We deserved (a break) somewhere and we finally got one at the

end of the season,” said linebacker Drew Wood after the game.

Then two players who have not seen the field much this season

led the Rams to the winning score and offered a glimpse into next

season. Running back Jimmy Green powered for three yards on a

fourth-and-one play and Justin Holland completed 4-of-7 passes

including a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Joel Dressen with 53

seconds to play.

“God, it was such good feeling getting across that goal line,”

Dressen said. “We have all the faith in (Holland).”

Holland came to CSU in the fall of 2001 after setting the

Colorado high school passing record at Bear Creek in suburban

Denver. Head coach Sonny Lubick gave Holland significant playing

time last season to mix Van Pelt’s playmaking ability with

Holland’s strong arm. However, because of Van Pelt’s emergence as

one of the top quarterbacks in Division I-A coupled with the number

of close games CSU played in, Holland’s time all but went away.

But the sophomore stayed prepared and was ready when he was

thrown into the spotlight.

“I’ve never been nervous to play football,” Holland said. “I

didn’t even know that Brad had broken his hand.”

Green has been even more of an unknown for CSU. With senior

Rahsaan Sanders returning, Marcus Houston transferring from

Colorado and top recruit Tristan Walker returning from injury, it

looked like Green would never see the field.

But injuries to Walker and Sanders and fumbling issues from

Houston gave Green a chance, and he has taken advantage. Green’s

113 yards on 25 carries against UNLV was the first time a Ram

running back had run for more than 100 yards since Sanders ran for

123 against I-AA Weber St. on Sept. 13.

“We got ourselves a good running back there,” Lubick said.

Green has to be the favorite to start for the Rams next season.

With Holland under center, a majority of the offensive line coming

back, Dressen returning and David Anderson leading a talented

receiving corps, the offense should be solid.

The defense will lose six starters including three defensive

lineman, but return talent at linebacker and at cornerback with Ben

Stratton. Unlike this season, the Rams probably will not be in the

preseason national spotlight. But that’s when CSU usually plays its

best.

As for this season, lady luck shone on the Rams and Van Pelt in

Vegas, his broken bone in his right metatarsal was not bad and he

should return for the bowl game, likely against Boston College or

Notre Dame.

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