LAS VEGAS – In a city littered with pawnshops where people sell
off their digital cameras to try to get back the money they lost
gambling, the CSU football team tried to salvage their season with
a win against Nevada-Las Vegas.
Their 24-23 thrilling comeback win not only gave CSU a birth in
the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl on New Year’s Eve, it showed
Ram fans that the future looks pretty bright.
When quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt went out with a broken hand in
the second half, it looked like the Rams would suffer the same fate
as all those poor saps, including myself, who come home from Sin
City “so close” to winning. It looked eerily similar to fourth
quarter losses to Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico.
But the fortunes of the Rams’ season changed when UNLV kicker
Dillon Pieffer missed a 33-yard field goal with 2:38 to play and
UNLV ahead 23-17.
“We deserved (a break) somewhere and we finally got one at the
end of the season,” said linebacker Drew Wood after the game.
Then two players who have not seen the field much this season
led the Rams to the winning score and offered a glimpse into next
season. Running back Jimmy Green powered for three yards on a
fourth-and-one play and Justin Holland completed 4-of-7 passes
including a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Joel Dressen with 53
seconds to play.
“God, it was such good feeling getting across that goal line,”
Dressen said. “We have all the faith in (Holland).”
Holland came to CSU in the fall of 2001 after setting the
Colorado high school passing record at Bear Creek in suburban
Denver. Head coach Sonny Lubick gave Holland significant playing
time last season to mix Van Pelt’s playmaking ability with
Holland’s strong arm. However, because of Van Pelt’s emergence as
one of the top quarterbacks in Division I-A coupled with the number
of close games CSU played in, Holland’s time all but went away.
But the sophomore stayed prepared and was ready when he was
thrown into the spotlight.
“I’ve never been nervous to play football,” Holland said. “I
didn’t even know that Brad had broken his hand.”
Green has been even more of an unknown for CSU. With senior
Rahsaan Sanders returning, Marcus Houston transferring from
Colorado and top recruit Tristan Walker returning from injury, it
looked like Green would never see the field.
But injuries to Walker and Sanders and fumbling issues from
Houston gave Green a chance, and he has taken advantage. Green’s
113 yards on 25 carries against UNLV was the first time a Ram
running back had run for more than 100 yards since Sanders ran for
123 against I-AA Weber St. on Sept. 13.
“We got ourselves a good running back there,” Lubick said.
Green has to be the favorite to start for the Rams next season.
With Holland under center, a majority of the offensive line coming
back, Dressen returning and David Anderson leading a talented
receiving corps, the offense should be solid.
The defense will lose six starters including three defensive
lineman, but return talent at linebacker and at cornerback with Ben
Stratton. Unlike this season, the Rams probably will not be in the
preseason national spotlight. But that’s when CSU usually plays its
As for this season, lady luck shone on the Rams and Van Pelt in
Vegas, his broken bone in his right metatarsal was not bad and he
should return for the bowl game, likely against Boston College or