On Saturday afternoon, everyone in Hughes Stadium expected a win from Colorado State. The Rams won, but not like most expected, kicking a game winning field goal as time expired to top the Sacramento State Hornets (1-1) 23-20.
CSU freshman kicker Ben DeLine was the unanticipated story of the game. After falling behind 17-20 with 10:03 left in the fourth quarter, the Rams led a 61-yard, eight and a half minute drive down the field. CSU (1-1) was held to fourth and ten from the SSU 19-yard line when Ben DeLine kicked a 36-yard field goal to tie the game at 20 with 1:29 remaining.
Two plays following the kickoff, SSU had second and ten from their own 28 when Ram defensive tackle James Morehead leveled Hornet running back Evander Wilkins, forcing a fumble which was recovered by CSU’s Mike Pagnotta. CSU gave Gartrell Johnson III three rushes to kill the clock and once it hit two seconds left, DeLine was called upon once again to give the Rams their first win of the Steve Fairchild Era.
“The game-winning kick was a lot of fun. I was a lot more anxious to kick that kick than the one to tie the game,” said DeLine after the game.
Steve Fairchild, who earned his first career win as a head coach on Saturday, said he never hesitated about putting a freshman kicker in to try and win the game. He seemed pleased with the team’s performance.
“There are some things that I think we are going to tweak when we look at the tape,” Fairchild said. “I still think our team played hard, and we practiced hard. I like our team, I like our work ethic, I like the way we stay together. I think we’re going to be a good football team before long.”
Rams senior quarterback Billy Farris and junior wide receiver Rashaun Greer both had breakout games on Saturday. Farris, who was limited to short passes in last week’s loss against Colorado, threw for 321 yards, including a touchdown to tight end Kory Sperry. Farris’ career-best game was aided by the play of Greer, who had 152 receiving yards on nine receptions.
“It felt good, we got to air it out,” Farris said. “Some of the shots got screwed up, [Sacramento State] was grabbing a lot so we didn’t get to hit the routes like we wanted to, but we got to take our chances and it was a lot of fun.”
Leading the CSU defense was sophomore linebacker Ricky Brewer, who had a field day tallying a career high 11 tackles, ten of which were unassisted. Senior defensive end Tommie Hill also had a career high day collecting two sacks, the first sacks of the season for the Rams.
“We really concentrated on the expectations they put on the lines. I don’t think we gave up a sack offensively,” Hill said. “And on defense it was, ‘Get to the quarterback.’ So, we were able to do that a little more. They got some big plays on us, but overall we were able to contain them.”
The Rams are idle next Saturday before hosting the University of Houston on Sept. 20.
Fairchild wanted to make sure to thank the fans, especially the students, for their support throughout the win over SSU.
“We have a tremendous student section. I personally say thank you to everybody for coming because kids remember that for the rest of their lives,” said the CSU head coach. “I’ll remember it. I remember it as a player, I remember it as an assistant coach . It’s an honor to get that here and the [team] respects it. We went over to sing the fight song after the game with the student section.”
Football beat writer Matt Stephens can be reached at email@example.com.