FORT COLLINS, Colo. - Battling snowy conditions at Hughes Stadium on Saturday night, the Colorado State Rams (3-7, 2-4 MW) walked away with a 33-11 victory over the UNLV Rebels (2-9, 2-4 MW).
It was the second consecutive win at Hughes Stadium for the Rams, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished by Colorado State since October of 2010 when the Rams knocked off UNLV and New Mexico.
“We came in with the mantra that we determine the outcome,” Head Coach Jim McElwain said. “We determine how we are going to play, what kind of effort we are going to play with, what kind of emotion we are going to play with. I thought our guys came out and had a little juice.”
While the offense struggled early on in the tough weather, the Rams’ defense had no trouble. Junior linebacker Shaquil Barrett got the scoring started for CSU with a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown with 4:30 left in the first quarter. It was the third defensive touchdown of Barrett’s career at Colorado State.
Five minutes later, the Rams’ defense would score again. On the first play of the second quarter, Calvin Tonga forced a fumble which was recovered by junior defensive back Shaq Bell and returned 30 yards for a touchdown to give CSU a 14-0 lead.
The score marked the fourth defensive touchdown for the Rams on the year, all coming in the last two home games.
Colorado State would extend its lead midway through the second quarter, after Donnell Alexander rushed for his first of two touchdowns. The 10-yard touchdown run capped a two-play, 19-yard drive that was set up by another UNLV fumble.
The Rams defense was relentless all night, forcing four UNLV turnovers which they turned into 21 first-half points.
Just before halftime, sophomore kicker Jared Roberts connected on a career-long 49-yard field goal to give Colorado State a 24-0 lead heading into the break. It was the first time CSU had held its opponent scoreless in the first half since Sept. 10, 2011 when the Rams defeated Northern Colorado, 33-14.
Coming out of intermission, the Rams did not lose a step on defense, forcing three-and-outs on each of the Rebels’ first two possessions of the half.
Utilizing the good field position that their defense gave them, the offense featured a strong running game to move down the field. Capping off an eight-play drive, Roberts connected on a 32-yard field goal to give CSU a 27-0 lead with 4:47 left in the third quarter.
UNLV finally got on the board with 13 minutes left in the game, scoring on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Nick Sherry to Max Johnson on fourth-and-goal. The Rebels converted on their two-point conversion to close the gap to 27-8.
The Rams would respond right away though, moving the ball 55 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown. The drive was capped by a 14-yard touchdown run from Alexander, his second of the night.
UNLV would add a field goal late in the game, but CSU was able to run out the clock after recovering the onside kick.
Alexander led all Rams with a career-best 139 yards on 21 carries, while Chris Nwoke added 66 yards on 14 carries.
CSU’s defense proved to be the story of the night, however. On top of the four turnovers and two defensive scores, the Rams also tallied two sacks on the night. Even more impressively, CSU held UNLV to just 3-of-13 on third-down conversions and just 219 yards of total offense.
“We did a good job getting off of the field,” McElwain said. “It gave us a chance for a short field. I am really proud of the way they (the defense) came out and performed in the game.”