DENVER – After weeks of anticipation, the Cinch Jeans Rocky Mountain Showdown finally saw rivals Colorado State and CU-Boulder lineup at Invesco Field at Mile High in front of 60,989 fans.
CU handled the Rams easily in a 24-3 victory Saturday, ending all hopes for the first back-to-back wins for CSU since 1999-2000.
The Buffs took advantage of the CSU defense early on, scoring the first touchdown of the game on their third possession.
CU wide receiver Travon Patterson caught an underneath pass from junior quarterback Tyler Hansen, taking it 15 yards for a touchdown, after a methodical drive aided by a roughing the passer call on Ramsâ€™ freshman linebacker Mike Orakpo.
â€œIt didnâ€™t get me down at all,â€ Orakpo said. â€œActually it motivated me because if you almost get the first one, you want another one.â€
Orakpo atoned for his costly penalty on CUâ€™s next possession, ending another threatening drive with a sack.
The excitement of what appeared to be a step forward by the Ramsâ€™ defense was short lived as the CU offense supplied a heavy dose of running back Rodney Stewart.
Stewart took five straight carries for 33 yards before Hansen struck again, completing a 15-yard pass to senior wide receiver Scotty McKnight and again for a 27-yard touchdown one play later.
The touchdown catch made McKnight CUâ€™s all-time leader in receptions with 168. McKnight finished the game with six receptions for 78 yards and the one touchdown.
â€œItâ€™s monumental for me,â€ McKnight said. â€œItâ€™s something Iâ€™ll look back on and say â€˜Wow thatâ€™s a big dealâ€™, but right now the biggest deal for me is getting that first win.â€
The offense for CSU sputtered, failing to gain a first down until its fourth drive.
Coach Steve Fairchild did see potential despite a rough start from his receivers.
â€œI love what weâ€™re doing with receiver,â€ Fairchild said. â€œBut weâ€™re still a long way off.â€
True freshman quarterback Pete Thomas also struggled in his first collegiate game, going 24 for 33 passing with 196 yards and three interceptions.
â€œI felt real comfortable out there, the game seemed slow to me,â€ Thomas said. â€œI just had too many mistakes on those interceptions, but you got to give their defense credit, they made a hell of a play on those two interceptions.â€
CSUâ€™s running game did not make Thomasâ€™ job any easier, struggling to find lanes.
â€œI do think we have some talent in the backfield, but weâ€™re still sorting out how to use it and when to use it,â€ Fairchild said.
The team finished with a mere 49 yards of total rushing on 25 attempts, 11 of which were from UCLA transfer Raymond Carter.
CU added a late first half field goal and a third quarter touchdown on a quarterback sneak by Hansen set up on a 14-yard screen pass to Stewart.
CSU returns to action on Sept. 11 when the Rams travel to Reno, Nev. to face the Nevada Wolfpack.
Football beat reporter Cris Tiller can be reached at email@example.com.