In front of 27,930 Ram faithful hungry for a homecoming win over conference bottom-feeder San Diego State, the CSU football team could not put enough together Saturday to shed the weight of the nation’s second longest losing streak.
The 24-20 loss is their twelfth in a row, dating back to last year – 371 days of heartbreak.
“It can’t get any worse then right now,” senior quarterback Caleb Hanie said after the game. “You talk about the streak. It’s pissing me off more every week.”
Once again for the Rams, it came down to the final seconds.
Of the 44 points scored in the game, 37 came in the second half. A true low-scoring shootout, if there is such a thing, the teams traded points and the lead until the final whistle blew.
Down by four at 17-13 with 6:13 left in the fourth, Hanie and the offense engineered what looked to be the game-winning touchdown drive. Starting on their own 14 yard line they worked their way to the SDSU 40 in seven plays. On the next snap, senior wide receiver Damon Morton was able to slip by the safety and under a towering Hanie throw, falling over the goal-line for a 40-yard touchdown.
The cheers radiating from the CSU sideline and faithful student section said the streak was over – the Rams would win by three.
“I wish we could call the game off with two minutes left in the game,” head coach Sonny Lubick said. “But that’s football.”
It was those two minutes that the Aztecs would use to extend the streak that continues to define the CSU football team this season.
Starting on their own 20, SDSU quarterback Kevin O’Connell missed his first two passes before hitting Brett Swain down the left sideline for 57 yards. From there the Aztecs were just four run plays from the haymaker that dropped an already deflated defense and sent the Rams further down the spiral.
“This was definitely a must win for us. We had everything we wanted – a sellout crowd, playing a team that has been struggling,” strong safety Zac Bryson said. “It’s incredibly frustrating not to get the job done.”
Coach Lubick reiterated the same point, saying that being close is not good enough.
“We’ve got to many ‘shouldas’ and ‘couldas’ around here,” Lubick said. “It’s going to be natural for all of us not to want to go to work tomorrow – to say, ‘what the heck’s the use?’ – but I think once we get to Tuesday we’ll be ready to go.”
One week after a seven carry, nine yard performance against Texas Christian, junior running back Kyle Bell came back with 79 yards on 19 carries. As a team, the Rams finished with 139 yards and one touchdown on the ground.
Quarterback Caleb Hanie’s interception in the first quarter was his 27th pick in his 28 game career. The turnover extended his streak to eight games in a row with an interception, dating back to last season. Hanie finished 14-26 for 188 yards and one touchdown.
Junior place kicker Jason Smith was 2-2 on field goals and 2-2 on PATs in wind that was gusting upwards of 20 mph. Smith hit from 39 yards and 20 yards in the third quarter.
Safeties Mike Pagnotta and Klint Kubiak did not play Saturday. SS Pagnotta suffered a serious right ankle sprain in the third quarter against TCU last week. FS Kubiak missed his third game in a row as he recovers from internal bleeding caused by a previously undetected stomach ulcer.
Starting in place of the injured safeties were seniors Jermaine Walters at free safety and Zac Bryson at strong safety. Walters finished with six tackles and Bryson finished with nine tackles.
SDSU quarterback Kevin O’Connell finished the game with three rushing touchdowns, a career high. O’Connell finished with 184 yards passing on 13 completions and 41 yards rushing on 16 carries.