A long line of red car-taillights leading out of Hughes Stadium
in the third quarter told the story.
This wasn’t the kind of game CSU had hoped for, again.
In a game where the CSU football team never held a lead, the No.
22 Minnesota Golden Gophers ran their way to a 34-16 victory before
a record home-opener crowd at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium,
sending the Rams to their first 0-3 start in 12 years.
The Gopher attack was carried by the running back duo of Marion
Barber III and Lawrence Maroney, who combined to run for 333 yards
against a CSU defense that struggled to tackle all evening long.
All together, Minnesota ran for 360 yards against the Rams, while
sophomore Gopher quarterback Brian Cupito threw for 144 yards and
“That was a good football team we played tonight,” said head
coach Sonny Lubick. “They ran the ball pretty well, as they
Turnovers again were an issue for the Rams, as junior
quarterback Justin Holland threw three interceptions and true
freshman Gartrel Johnson lost a fumble. Those turnovers led to 13
Minnesota points, stopping drives and putting the Rams in a hole
they could not climb out of.
“I’m the one who’s held the offense up,” Holland said. “Without
those turnovers, we’d be able to keep driving.”
The game started quickly for Minnesota, which scored on its
opening drive of the game in less than two minutes, with Maroney
and Barber carrying the ball on each snap of the five-play drive.
Barber capped it off with a 19-yard touchdown run, his first of two
in the evening. He scored from 61 yards out later in the first
quarter, a new career-long run.
After Jeff Babcock punted following the first drive of the game,
the Rams did not punt to Minnesota again, instead turning over the
ball four times on turnovers and twice on downs. They were unable
to convert a fourth-and-four on the Minnesota 39-yard line on their
opening drive of the second half, and Minnesota took control of the
The Gophers drove down, finishing the drive with a 19-yard
Cupito touchdown pass to tight end Matt Spaeth, putting the game
out of reach for the Rams. Spaeth set career highs with six catches
for 71 yards and two touchdowns.
On a positive note, the Rams finally found their running game,
running on the legs of junior Uldis Jaunarajs, who gained 98 yards
on 22 carries in his first game as a starter this season. Jaunarajs
gained more yards in the first half than the Rams gained in
previous games against Colorado and Southern California.
With CSU trailing almost the entire game, Jaunarajs was unable
to make much of an impact.
“You got to go to the pass (when you get behind),” Jaunarajs
said. “The defense then drops back deep into coverage, but you
don’t have a choice.”
When the Rams went to the pass, they encountered problems.
Holland’s interceptions came during the second quarter, killing
drives and giving the Gophers good field position.
Minnesota rushed for 248 yards in the first half, led by Barber,
who ran for 146 yards, averaging more than 8 yards a carry,
including two touchdowns. He finished the game with 201 yard
rushing, the first time CSU has given up 200 yards or more to an
opponent since New Mexico’s DonTrell Moore ran for 252 yards
against the Rams last year.
Maroney had equal success, gaining 135 yards on 11 carries.
But the turnovers were again the key for the Rams. On average,
Minnesota started drives from its own 35, while the Rams started
from their own 19. On three of the four turnovers, Minnesota
started on the Rams’ end of the field.
The Rams also failed to convert drives into touchdowns,
depending on Babcock to make three field goals from 48, 37 and 27
yards out, with the 48-yard field goal matching a career best.
But the Rams needed more than three-point scores.
“A lot of times we’re driving down there,” Holland said. “But we
have to be able to score touchdowns. And we can’t turn the ball
over. Turnovers have killed us the past few games.”
Attendance at the game was 33,501, a new record for a Hughes
Stadium home opener. The previous record was 31,607 when the Rams
beat Louisville 36-33 in 2002. The crowd was the 10th largest in
Hughes Stadium history.
The Rams now look to play Division I-AA Montana State Saturday
at 1 p.m. at Hughes. CSU boasts two former Montana State coaches,
head coach Sonny Lubick and running backs coach Mick Delaney.
Montana State (1-1) lost to Cal-Poly 27-14 this weekend.