A tale of two halves only begins to describe CSU’s 24-21 loss Thursday night against the Air Force Academy.
The Rams entered the locker room at half time looking like contenders for the Mountain West Conference championship, leading 21-3, largely because they were the beneficiaries of nearly every break possible in the first 30 minutes of play.
“I told our team at halftime this game was far from over,” said Head
Coach Sonny Lubick.
Far from would be an understatement.
“I told our kids at halftime I thought the key was composure,” said AFA Head Coach Fisher DeBerry. “But most importantly, if we believed.”
Believed they did.
The Falcons methodically chipped away at CSU’s 17-point lead during the next two quarters through a number of plays that seemed to become increasingly unbearable for any CSU fan.
“We couldn’t execute in the second half,” said junior wide receiver Dustin
Osborn. “I don’t know what the deal was. We just couldn’t come out and get the fire going.”
The fire that burned so brightly for CSU during the first half was quickly extinguished by AFA junior Bobby Giannini’s third quarter interception return to the Rams’ 14-yard line.
The Falcons would score a touchdown two plays later to pull within four points.
Above all, the loss is a letdown for the coaches, players and supporters of CSU football.
A triple-option offense, designed to dominate possession of the football, isn’t supposed to be able to come from a 17-point deficit.
Sure the defense was run over by a couple of AFA 100-yard rushers, but they did manage to stop the Falcons with enough time in the fourth quarter to give the offense a chance for a possible game-tying field goal.
Behind the guidance of junior quarterback Caleb Hanie, CSU was only able to gain one first down before AFA’s second interception of the second half all but ended the game.
“He lost his composure in the second half with those turnovers,” said offensive coordinator Dan Hammerschmidt.
Losing a conference game on the road with a 17-point lead at halftime sounds like the exact game that hangs around a team too long.
“It’s a loss and every loss hurts,” said junior Bob Vomhoff.
Hopefully this loss won’t hurt more than others and the Rams will be ready to beat Wyoming next week.
A loss against the Cowboys and the idea of a bowl game is seriously threatened with both Utah teams and defending conference-champion TCU remaining on the schedule.
Football beat writer Sean Star can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.