Sept. 14, 2013
By Craig Buchanan
Athletic Media Relations
FORT COLLINS, Colo. - Playing in front of their home fans for the first time this year, the Colorado State Rams (1-2, 0-0 MW) did not disappoint those in attendance Saturday with a 34-17 victory over the Cal Poly Mustangs at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium.
With the win, CSU now has won four straight games at Hughes Stadium dating back to last season, the longest home winning streak for the program since 2005.
"That's a win that we really needed, and a win that I'm just so happy for our coaching staff and our players," McElwain said. "We found a way to dig down and get a win; I think it was a total team victory."
The Rams unquestionably put forth their best offensive effort of the year on Saturday afternoon, amassing 533 yards of offense, including 353 yards in the first half. It was the first time that CSU has recorded at least 350 yards of offense in a half since the 2010 season.
Junior quarterback Garrett Grayson led the way for the Rams, completing 21 of his 30 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns. Complementing Grayson's aerial attack, senior running back Chris Nwoke provided great balance for the Rams as he rushed for 133 yards on just 19 carries. It was Nwoke's sixth career game that he has crossed the century mark on the ground.
As a team, the Rams had three separate running backs carry the ball at least 10 times in the game, and totaled 236 yards on the ground, the most by a CSU team since rushing for 250 on Oct. 29, 2011, at UNLV.
Colorado State got on the board early in the game, moving the ball 75 yards in seven plays and taking just 2:33 off the clock before Donnell Alexander crossed the goal line with a 6-yard touchdown run.
The Mustangs responded with their own sustained drive, capping off a 10-play, 46 yard drive with a 46-yard field goal from Bobbby Zalud to make it 7-3 with 7:59 left in the first quarter.
CSU sophomore kicker Jared Roberts connected on a pair of field goals, from 33 yards and 39 yards respectively, to give the Rams a 13-3 lead heading into the second quarter, but once again the Mustangs responded.
On the first play of the second quarter, fullback Akaninyene Umoh ran it in from 34 yards out to close the gap to just three points. That would be as close as Cal Poly would ever get in the game, however.
On the very next drive, Colorado State finished off an impressive 12-play, 75 yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run from Bibbs. The drive took nearly six minutes off the clock, and featured some trickery to set up the score as left tackle Ty Sambrailo caught a designed screen pass from Grayson and ran it 11 yards to the 1-yard line. The play was ruled a run for Sambrailo as Grayson's pass was ruled to have been backwards.
The Rams were not done there though, as CSU scored on its very next drive with a 36-yard pass from Grayson to freshman wide receiver Rashard Higgins for his first career touchdown to give the team a 27-10 lead heading into halftime.
Colorado State couldn't get anything going in the third quarter however, which opened the door just enough for the Mustangs.
With 3:46 left in the third quarter, Chris Brown found Willie Tucker in the end zone for a 23-yard score to cut the Rams' lead to 10 points, 27-17.
Lining up for a 32-yard field goal with 8:12 left in the game, it looked as if Cal Poly was going to cut it to just a one score game. That's when senior linebacker Shaquil Barrett changed the tide of the game.
Barrett broke through the line and blocked his second field goal of the game, giving the Rams the ball at their own 32 yard line up by 10.
"Blocking field goals is about effort and desire and how hard you are willing to come off the football," McElwain said. "We saw some things in protection that we thought we could take advantage of just like you do every week, but to see him not take a play off was pretty cool."
Not only did Barrett's block maintain the 10-point lead for the Rams, but it also seemed to energize the offense.
Colorado State used 10 plays and 4:08 off the clock to move the ball 68 yards and score a touchdown, which gave the Rams a 34-17 lead and sealed the game. The drive was capped hen Grayson found tight end Kivon Cartwright on a crossing route in the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown.
The Rams will travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala., next week to take on No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide, for whom McElwain was the offensive coordinator from 2008-11. The game will be televised on either ESPN2 or ESPNU, with kickoff slated for 5 p.m. MT.
"It's going to be something special for me personally," McElwain said of next week's highly anticipated contest. "It isn't about me though. It's about our guys and our organization having the opportunity to go to a place that is a mecca of college football and match yourself against the best. That's why we get into athletics and that's why we compete."
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