Sept. 21, 2013
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Head Coach Jim McElwain returned to Tuscaloosa where he won two national championships as offensive coordinator of the Crimson Tide, but his return was spoiled as the Rams lost 31-6 to the nation's No. 1 team.
Colorado State played its most complete game of the season on Saturday, holding Alabama to 17 points through the first three quarters, and had the ball trailing just 17-6 with 12 minutes to play.
“I am really proud of how hard our guys played,” McElwain said. “I thought our defense particularly came out and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Our offense, for the most part, took care of the ball, which is what we thought we had to do. When we did turn the ball over, they would get a big play. AJ (McCarron) would make a great throw and they would jump on it at the end.”
The Rams' defense held the Crimson Tide rushing attack to only 66 yards on the ground, the lowest total since Jan. 2, 2009 when Alabama only rushed for 31 yards vs. Utah in the Sugar Bowl. Through the air, Heisman candidate A.J. McCarron completed 20-of-26 passes for 258 yards and a touchdown.
CSU's defense came out of the gate fired up, stopping the Crimson Tide on their first two possessions before allowing a three-yard Kenyan Drake rushing touchdown with 39 seconds left in the first quarter.
The following CSU drive stalled and a blocked Hayden Hunt punt put the Crimson Tide up 14-0 within a matter of three minutes. At the end of the first half the nation's top team led 17-0.
CSU's first points of the contest were set up by junior cornerback Bernard Blake's first career interception. As Alabama drove into Colorado State territory, Blake dove in front of a McCarron pass and intercepted it close to the sideline. From there, the Rams' offense marched 55 yards in nine plays to set up a 45-yard Jared Roberts field goal.
The momentum swung in favor of the Rams after the defense forced an immediate three-and-out. Quarterback Garrett Grayson led CSU down the field and Roberts, a candidate for the Lou Groza Award, connected on a 31-yard field goal to trim the Crimson Tide's lead to 11 heading into the fourth quarter.
The defense, which didn't allow Alabama's offense to convert on third down until late in the fourth quarter, made a big stop on third down, keeping the momentum with the green and gold and putting the ball back in Grayson's hands.
CSU looked poised to strike again and cut deeper into the Alabama lead but a big hit on Grayson jarred the ball loose and the Crimson Tide recovered. Grayson, who had made some nice plays with his feet earlier in the game, was hit from behind as he scrambled upfield to escape pressure.
Alabama extinguished the Rams' attempt at a comeback on the very next play as McCarron went over-the-top to Deandrew White for a 30-yard score.
“That was hard and I kind of let the team down with that one,” Grayson said. “I was just trying to make a play. I have to be more secure with the ball and take care of it. I think that hurt us. In situations like that, the offensive coordinator on the other team is going to come out immediately and try to take a shot. They did, and it was a back breaker.”
The Rams weren't able to bounce back from there, as they gave up one final touchdown with just over a minute left when backup quarterback Blake Sims hit Chris Black on a screen that went for 14 yards.
Freshman wide receiver Rashard Higgins had a career night, hauling in seven receptions for 71 yards, while Joe Hansley led the Rams with 82 receiving yards. Defensively, linebacker Aaron Davis led both teams with 11 tackles and linebacker Shaquil Barrett had 1.5 sacks. Josh Lovingood, a true freshman defensive lineman from Fresno, Calif., recorded three tackles in his first collegiate game.
Colorado State returns home to take on UTEP on Sept. 28. Kickoff for the annual Ag Day game is slated for 1:30 p.m. MT and will also be the team's annual Orange Out game.
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