In football, momentum swings back and forth between the teams like a pendulum, oftentimes shifting on one play.
The third quarter saw the momentum shift to CU-Boulder as the Buffs scored on their first possession in four plays cutting the Rams’ lead to 10. The Buffs threatened to score again with their second possession, driving the ball to the Rams’ 36-yard-line. In an instant, the Rams grabbed the momentum back on a monstrous hit by CSU safety Elijah-Blu Smith on CU-Boulder wide receiver Scotty McKnight.
McKnight caught the 18-yard pass, only to be met full speed with a torpedoing Smith, knocking the ball loose.
“I just went out there, and I saw the big pass and I just did what I did,” Smith said. “I just wanted to give him a good pop, and the ball came out.”
After initially being called a catch and down by contact, the play was reviewed by the booth and overturned to a catch and fumble recovered by CSU linebacker Alex Williams. The scoring threat was gone.
“Second half, they grabbed momentum from us, but Elijah-Blu’s hit was huge,” said defensive coordinator Larry Kerr.
McKnight laid flat on his back for several minutes before walking off the field on his own power. He sustained a concussion on the play but would return later in the game.
“Oh my gosh. I mean that’s one of those hits that will be shown forever,” senior cornerback Nick Oppenneer said.
The sophomore safety has earned the reputation of being a big hitter.
“You already expect that from him. Blu brings the hammer down every day in practice. We don’t expect nothing less from him,” said freshman defensive end C.J. James.
Smith also recorded an interception in the first quarter on a bobbled pass by McKnight.
As a whole, the defense recorded the two turnovers and four sacks and limited the CU-Boulder offense to only 251 total yards.
The four sacks are a welcome sight after recording only 10 all of last season. Three came from the defensive line – a unit with big questions marks concerning its size and experience coming into the season.
“I told you guys the defensive line is improved. (Defensive line coach) Scott Brown has done a tremendous job,” Kerr said. “All those kids have worked, worked and worked, and you get results, and we had it tonight with those guys.”
The defensive effort and overall game from the Rams surprised everyone but the team itself.
“Reading the paper this morning, no one picked us to win,” said senior safety and defensive captain Klint Kubiak. “I could just sense something in the locker room, the way we traveled up here; no one said a word, the bus was quiet. We had that quiet confidence.”
Football beat writer Stephen Meyers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.