Big players step up in big games – case and point, Gartrell Johnson. Not only did the senior just have the biggest game of his entire career, but he did it on the biggest stage he’s ever played on while guiding the CSU Rams to a bowl title and their first winning season in five years.
The Colorado State Rams defeated the Fresno State Bulldogs 40-35, winning the third annual New Mexico Bowl. Johnson was huge for the Rams, rushing for 285 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winner, while catching five passes for 90 yards and earning offensive MVP honors.
Rams head coach Steve Fairchild said that he couldn’t put into words how much the CSU senior class, including Johnson, meant to the Rams this year.
“He was our best offensive weapon today and it’s been that way all season,” the first year head coach said of Johnson. “He’s a very physical back and he made some plays in the passing game which really bailed us out. What he has done all year has been remarkable.”
The Rams had to fight for the win, coming from behind to knock off the Bulldogs. CSU trailed most of the game, including a 28-26 deficit early in the fourth quarter before the Rams offense took over. Quarterback Billy Farris connected with receiver Rashaun Greer, hitting the junior on a deep post route ending in a 69-yard touchdown. The score gave the Rams a 33-28 lead. After forcing a Bulldogs punt on the ensuing possession, Johnson put the game away for good, taking a handoff 77 yards for a touchdown and ensuring the CSU victory.
Fresno State would add a late touchdown, but it wasn’t enough as CSU prevailed 40-35.
Johnson explained that he didn’t expect to have such an impressive day coming into the game.
“I just don’t think about things like that,” the Florida native said. “I just think about going out and blocking and running hard. The rest will take care of itself. They gave me a shot and I broke a couple of runs.”
Johnson’s performance set New Mexico Bowl records for yards rushing and total yards from scrimmage and ranks as the second most rushing yards by a running back in NCAA bowl history.
Tommie Hill was named the defensive player of the game, after intercepting a pass from Fresno State quarterback Tom Brandstater and returning it 15 yards. The pick, which Farichild called the play of the game, set up a Rams touchdown and gave CSU the needed momentum to pull out the win.
“We needed a turnover and a chance to give the offense the ball back and we were able to come up with the play,” the senior said. “It was a good thing for us.”
Even though Johnson won’t play another game in a CSU uniform, he explained how much this win will benefit the program.
“It’s good for everyone,” he said. “It’s good for the program; it’s good for coach Fairchild. It’s good for CSU as a whole. To have a great day like that and for us to just get a win sets the bar high for next season.”
1 2 3 4 F
CSU 10 10 0 20 40
FSU 14 7 7 7 35