Sporting all-green uniforms for the first time since 1992, CSU ran wild on the visiting Fresno State Bulldogs, 34-10.
Behind the rejuvenated legs of quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt, the Rams had no problem in their Homecoming victory. Van Pelt was able to gain ample yards on the ground on quarterback sneaks when he dropped back to pass and found no one open.
“A couple of the runs I had, they had the right coverage,” he said. “I don’t want to do too much, but I did it at the right time. It is something the coaches wanted me to do.”
He was not lying.
“He finally listened to me,” head coach Sonny Lubick said. “I told him to quit being a quarterback all of the game and run the ball once in a while.”
Capitalizing on good field position most of the day thanks in large part to the crowd-pleasing kickoff and punt returns of Dexter Wynn, the Rams were able to feed of the energy of both Wynn and the 32,620 people in attendance.
“Today I let it loose,” Wynn said. “Every time I get the ball, I want to make a play, and that is what I tried to do today.”
Running the ball seemed to be the theme of the day for the Rams.
Uldis Jaunarajs, a redshirt sophomore, made his first career start at running back – something running back coach Mick Delaney hinted at all week – and was able to scamper 71 yards on 14 carries. Former starter Marcus Houston, who had trouble holding on to the ball last week against Utah, found the end zone three times, twice on the ground, and once on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Van Pelt – Houston’s first career touchdown reception.
“This was a necessary win,” Houston said. “We went out today and everyone executed.”
Tied 3-3 late in the second quarter, the Rams found themselves deep in their own territory after a personal foul on Fresno’s punt.
But Van Pelt gathered up his troops and drove them 92 yards in four minutes and 29 seconds. He completed passes to David Anderson and Chris Pittman, and when nobody was open, he pulled the ball down and successfully ran up field.
The key play of the drive was on a second down play when he dropped back to pass. Finding nobody open, he pumped the ball and pulled it down and ran 31 yards. The drive was capped when he found Anderson in the end zone on a 7-yard pass.
“No. 11 got us today,” said Fresno head coach Pat Hill. “He made a lot of plays we couldn’t stop.
“I thought after going into the half down 10-3, we would have a great chance to come out in the second half and win it.”
Unfortunately for coach Hill, the second half got even worse for the Bulldogs.
With the CSU offense clicking on all cylinders, the defense took care of the rest. Sophomore cornerback Ben Stratton was able to stop a late fourth quarter drive by the Bulldogs with a huge interception in the end zone.
“We were in zone coverage,” Stratton said. “So as soon as their quarterback (Paul Pinegar) stepped back and looked my way, I knew I was going to get one.”
With star linebacker Eric Pauly out for the rest of the season, sophomore Courtney Jones stepped in and played well.
Jones led the Rams with nine tackles including a bone-jarring hit on Bulldogs tailback Dwayne Wright on a critical third-and-three play.
“He played a good game,” senior linebacker Drew Wood said. “He’s a physical linebacker and he comes up and makes plays.”
Sporting their newly found confidence, the Rams must now get ready to hit the road for the first time in four weeks and travel to face conference rival Brigham Young in Provo on Thursday. The Cougars won a shootout this weekend topping conference foe San Diego State 44-36 on the road. With only a short time to prepare, the Rams are excited to make the trip.
“I am ready to hit the road,” Van Pelt said. “We are coming into our own. It is a little late, but we are.”
Even after accounting for 355 total yards of offense, Van Pelt still found the time and energy to sign autographs for a group of kids running around on Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium imitating what they saw earlier in the day from the reborn Rams.