AIR FORCE ACADEMY – It had been exactly one year since heâ€™d last seen the end zone, but CSU running back Leonard Mason showed that he still had what it takes on Saturday against Air Force.
For the second consecutive season, Mason had a huge day against the Falcons, this time to the tune of 139 yards and a touchdown. After battling through injuries for the better part of fall practice, Mason was elevated to the starting running back position this week in lieu of Raymond Carter, who suffered a knee injury a week ago against TCU.
Mason was grateful for the opportunity.
â€œIt felt great. Iâ€™ve been waiting since training camp to get back in the mix,â€ said Mason, who was the Ramsâ€™ leading rusher in 2009. â€œI just wanted to finish where I left off.â€
The 100-yard performance from Mason was his first since last yearâ€™s tilt with Wyoming, when he ran for 119 yards on 20 carries.
The Rams (1-5, 0-2 MWC) â€“ who entered the week with the nationâ€™s worst ground game â€“ managed to outgain the Falcons in rushing yards 285 to 248. The feat is made all the more impressive when you consider Air Force entered the game as the best rushing team in the country.
Itâ€™s the first time any Rams team has outrushed Air Force at the Academy since 1978, when head coach Steve Fairchild was a junior at CSU.
Fairchild said he was encouraged by his teamâ€™s ability to move the ball on the ground.
â€œI think we played a physical game, weâ€™re doing some things that are good,â€ Fairchild said. â€œOne week weâ€™re playing decent defense, the next weâ€™re throwing the ball good, then running the ball good. We just keep working and itâ€™s going to come together for us.â€
Though the Rams struggled through the air on Saturday, quarterback Pete Thomas managed to break Caleb Hanieâ€™s 2004 single-season freshman passing record. Entering the game, Thomas needed just eight yards to set the mark.
Thomas is likely to become the first freshman â€“â€“ redshirt or true â€“â€“ to lead the team in passing yards. Through the first half of the season, Thomas has amassed 1,333 yards passing, five touchdowns and eight interceptions.
But with just one win in his first six collegiate games, Thomas is not pleased with his results thus far.
â€œWe need to be able to pass the ball better,â€ said Thomas, who threw for only 136 yards. â€œWe didnâ€™t today, and thatâ€™s my fault.â€
CSU will return to Hughes Stadium this weekend for its homecoming match against the UNLV Runninâ€™ Rebels (1-5, 1-1) hoping to put all facets of their game together.
Assistant Sports Editor Joel Hafnor can be reached at email@example.com.