|CSU vs Utah Slideshow|
Every inkling of heart and determination the CSU defense had was left on the 1-yard line of the north end zone Saturday on Sonny Lubick field at Hughes Stadium. A defining crowd of 32,713, 12th largest in stadium history, gave the Ram defense all the strength they needed to hold the line on three straight Utah runs from the 1-yard line to secure a 21-17 comeback victory. It is the Rams' (3-2 overall, 2-0 in the Mountain West Conference) third consecutive victory.
"It's just one of those things when they know what you're going to do and you know what they're going to do," said sophomore defensive end Jesse Nading. "It's just a matter of getting as low as you can and getting as much push as you can."
The defense had allowed Utah senior running back Quinton Ganther to reach the 4-yard line on a fourth and one situation from the CSU 24-yard line with less than two minutes remaining in the game. Ganther rushed the ball to the one with 1:31 left.
From there CSU used a defense head coach Sonny Lubick described as "stop the sneak," where the two defensive tackles stop penetration by pinching in on the middle of the offensive line, and the linebackers come over the top.
They stopped the sneak twice and on fourth and game with 27 seconds remaining Ganther had no chance as he was met in the backfield by a host of Ram defenders led by defensive tackles senior Delroy Parke and sophomore Blake Smith.
"I kept having this vision of us running off the field and celebrating, so when it got down to fourth and one that's when it hit me that we could stop them," Smith said. "Me and Delroy went down, next thing I know I hear people talking back and forth, then I jumped up and saw everybody celebrating and that was it, it was over."
Coach Lubick has been around for a while but he's not even sure if he's seen anything that tops the Rams' goal line stand.
"Thinking back through 45 years (of coaching), I haven't seen one as exciting as that with the crowd. Nothing where they were at the one or two-yard line, four downs to go," Lubick said.
The Rams would not have had the opportunity to end the game in such a way had the offense not figured out how to move the ball on the Utes.
With injuries to starters Albert Bimper and Josh Day, the Rams' offensive line struggled to get the running game working through the first half. But the Rams' offense continued to pound the run, and work horse sophomore running back Kyle Bell made it pay off. Bell took the ball and rushed off the left side, breaking several tackles, en route to a 49-yard touchdown run with 5:05 left, which would ultimately prove to be the game winner.
Bell finished the day with 140 yards on 25 carries and the long touchdown. It was Bell's third consecutive 100-yard rushing effort, the first time that has been accomplished since Cecil Sapp did it for the Rams in 2002.
The offensive line did more than an admirable job by not allowing a sack despite playing without the two starters. The Rams have allowed just three sacks through five games.
"You got to have a lot of pride in our offensive staff and (offensive coordinator Dan Hammerschmidt) when you [see] that two of your best offensive lineman don't play in this game that's the story," Lubick said. "I think we found two offensive lineman tonight, I think that will give us some confidence and give us a little more depth as the season goes on."
While the running game was stagnant in the first half, senior quarterback Justin Holland managed to keep the Ram defense off the field by connecting with a familiar set of hands. Senior wide receiver David Anderson proved once again that he's among the top receivers in college football.
Anderson finished the day with eight receptions for 120 yards and one touchdown. Anderson's 100-yard receiving effort was the 13th of his career, tying a CSU record held by Willie Miller. Anderson also moved into second place on the CSU career receiving list, with 2,883 yards following the game.
The offense did enough to win, but this game was won by the defense. The CSU defense allowed 425 yards of total offense, as Utah's sophomore quarterback Brian Johnson had 303 of them.
Nading and senior safety Travis Garcia each had interceptions in CSU territory, and then there was the goal line stand.
The Rams will play on the road this week for the first time in more than a month as they will travel to Provo, Utah to face BYU Saturday. BYU (2-3, 1-1) is coming off a 27-24 come-from-behind road upset of New Mexico.
The Rams are now in second place in the MWC, behind newcomer TCU. The Horned Frogs went into Laramie and beat Wyoming 28-14 to solidify first place. TCU and CSU are the only remaining undefeated teams in conference play.