SALT LAKE CITY- The Rams were out-rushed, out-passed and out-played Saturday, but somehow managed to engineer another nail-biting victory against Utah. Holding on to an eight-point lead, the Rams defense had no answers as Utah marched 80 yards to the CSU four-yard line in the waning moments of the game. But on fourth and goal, Utah quarterback Brett Elliot’s pass was broken up by Rhett Nelson in the end zone, sealing the 28-20 win in typical, last-second CSU-fashion.
“It never gets old, you always have to play to the end, from start to finish,” running back Cecil Sapp said. “If you stop playing, teams like Utah will come back and defeat you. We kept grinding everything out and we kept playing and we came out on top at the last minute.”
The road victory moves CSU to 6-2 on the season and improves its conference record to 2-0. The Utes, on the other hand, dropped their fifth game in a row, making it the longest losing streak since 1986.
“It couldn’t be more shocking than what’s happened,” Utah Head Coach Ron McBride said. “It just seems, at times, that we’re snake-bitten. We’re in great positions to win games and we just don’t finish them. I’m not disappointed in our football team.You can’t be happy with the outcome, but you can be happy with the way they played”
Although the Rams defense gave up 481 yards of offense, the most all season, two timely interceptions by linebacker Drew Wood and safety David Vickers kept the Utes from putting up more on the scoreboard. Utah’s 20 points were the least the Rams have given up since they held CU to 14 points.
“It’s not good enough to play close in these games,” Elliot said. “I feel so bad, we wanted to win it for (Coach McBride). To put all the work in and come up short like that is frustrating. I feel responsible, you just can’t turn the ball over like that.”
Despite the fact that the Rams’ 252 yards of total offense was their lowest output of the season and they failed to score in the fourth quarter, CSU’s four touchdowns proved to be enough to hold off the Utes. Quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt rushed for two scores and passed for 94 yards. However, Utah’s heralded rush defense held Cecil Sapp to 74 yards on the ground, the fewest for him in any game this year.
“It’s a heavyweight battle and you’ve got to fight all the way to the end,” cornerback Dexter Wynn said. “Utah gave us a lot, but we just kept fighting to the end. A win’s a win and we’ll take it.”
After going into the locker room at halftime with a 21-7 lead, it appeared the Rams were on the verge of that decisive victory they have been searching for all season.
CSU held the Utes to only 172 yards in the first half and appeared to be in cruise control. However, the second half saw the Utes score touchdowns on drives of 85 and 76 yards, as the combination of Elliot and running back Brandon Warfield moved the ball almost at will on the Rams.
But in a situation strangely familiar to the ending of the CU game, the Rams defense came up with a huge stop in the end zone to clinch CSU’s second conference victory.
“We just said ‘This is what we play for,'” Wood said. “If you’re an athlete you love to be in that situation so we just knew we had to step up and make a play and we got it done.”