For the first time this season, the Colorado State football team proved it could compete on the road. But ultimately, the Rams fell just short in their upset bid of the San Diego State Aztecs in a 24-19 defeat.
The Rams defense had its best road performance of the season, causing five turnovers and holding quarterback Ryan Lindley in check for the better part of three quarters.
Before Saturdayâ€™s contest, the Ramsâ€™ defense had allowed an average of 42.8 points per game on the road.
No turnover was more important than the third quarter fumble caused by junior linebacker Mychal Sisson, who scooped the ball up and returned it 88 yards for a touchdown, giving CSU a 13-10 lead.
“It felt good to be able to do something big for the team,” said Sisson, who also intercepted a pass in the game. “We needed it at that time.”
Saturdayâ€™s game pitted the two of the premiere freshmen in the conference as CSU quarterback Pete Thomas faced Aztecs running back Ronnie Hillman.
Hillman rushed for 151 yards and a touchdown in the victory, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark in the process. Hillman is just the third Aztec running back in program history to reach the century mark, joining the ranks of Lionel Hamilton and Marshall Faulk.
Meanwhile, Thomas completed 22 of 40 pass attempts for 266 yards and one touchdown in his return to California. After the game, the true freshman expressed some frustration with his performance.
“There were some open shots I didn’t hit and that I wish I could have back, and I take responsibility for that,” Thomas said. “There were some missed opportunities on my part and that cost us the game.”
While Hillman provided his team with a spark on the ground, the Rams (3-7, 2-4 MWC) received very little help from their running back corps. CSU struggled to just 31 yards rushing in the loss. Senior Leonard Mason had 10 carries for 11 yards after going over 100 yards in each of his last three games.
“Anytime you go on the road and move the ball and kick field goals, that’s tough,” coach Steve Fairchild said. “We’re improving as a football team. We played well and gave ourselves a good chance to win. I thought we’d run the ball a little bit better than we did.”
The loss ends any hope the Rams had of making a bowl game. The team will head home this weekend, as it hosts the Brigham Young Cougars at Hughes Stadium on Saturday at noon.
Assistant Sports Editor Joel Hafnor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.