A close loss is still a loss and the hardest to get over.
Up 17-3 midway through the third quarter, CSU (3-3, 0-2) allowed Utah (4-1, 1-0) to score in two plays on a 47-yard pass from quarterback Terrance Cain to receiver David Reed to close the gap to seven.
And Utah wasn’t done there.
The Utes added 14 fourth quarter points at the hands of running back Eddie Wide on a one-yard touchdown run and an eight-yard touchdown reception.
The Rams’ comeback attempt fell short as quarterback Grant Stucker threw his third interception of the game to safety Robert Johnson.
“That just leaves an awful taste. Its’ hard to lose that game. I mean it’s hard,” head coach Steve Fairchild said.
It is the second week in a row CSU has lost after building a big lead.
“Hats off to Utah. They came back and fought every step of the way. For it’s worth, they deserve the win. The played harder in the end,” senior offensive lineman Tim Walter said.
The teams played to a 3-3 stalemate in the first half with both offenses struggling to maintain drives.
CSU jumped out in the second half however behind strong running from junior back Leonard Mason.
Mason capped off a seven-play, 79 yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run to put CSU up 10-3 early in the third quarter.
Mason played his best game at CSU, finishing with 130 yards on 24 carries. Before the season, there were big question marks about the running back position trying to fill the shoes of graduated Gartrell Johnson.
“Like I said before, Gartrell, he was a great running back and I’m just trying to be Leonard Mason,” the junior back said.
CSU added another score its next possession after obtaining the ball on a Utah fumble.
Stucker lofted a pass high down the sideline receiver Dion Morton made a great adjustment for and scampered his way into the end-zone for thee 36-yard score to put the Rams up 17-3.
Utah then went to work, scoring its 21 unanswered points.
Cain said the team talked at halftime about capitalizing on its drives.
“We had to get the W. We talked about at half time that we were moving the ball great. We just have to keep it going and punch it in. That’s what we did,” Cain said.
Cain proved to be the dual threat the Rams were afraid of coming into the game, throwing for 248 yards while adding another 74 on the ground.
Stucker played his poorest game of the season, completing only 50 percent of his throws and tossing the three interceptions – all to safety Robert Johnson.
“He obviously has great closing speed. I thought I could get it over the top of him, but he made a great play on the pass,” Stucker said of his second interception intended for receiver Dion Morton.
Mistakes, whether it was Stucker’s interceptions or penalties cost CSU the game in the second half.
“We made some very, very poor decisions late in that ball game,” Fairchild said.
With a final score of 24-17 Fairchild feels confident his team will win a game like this against an elite MWC opponent.
“We’re going to win a game like this,” Fairchild said. “Any close loss is tough, but I just thought our football team was ready to take this step and we played most of the night like we were going to take it.”
Passing-Stucker 12-24-3 184 yards 1 TD
Receiving- Morton 5-106 1 TD
Rushing-Mason 24-131 1 TD