Turnovers hurt Rams in loss

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Sep 192004
 
Authors: Jon Pilsner

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

two touchdowns.

“That was a good football team we played tonight,” said head

coach Sonny Lubick. “They ran the ball pretty well, as they

do.”

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

ball.

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.”

GAME NOTES

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.

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