Dec. 21, 2013
By Craig Buchanan
Athletic Media Relations
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The Colorado State Rams (8-6, 5-3 MW) capped off their 2013 football season in dramatic fashion with a come-from-behind 48-45 victory in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl over the Washington State Cougars (6-7, 4-5 PAC-12) on Saturday afternoon.
Playing in its first bowl game since the 2008 season, Colorado State wanted to prove that it belonged and that this was what the program is to expect in the future. Sophomore sensation running back Kapri Bibbs did his part leading the Rams with 169 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns.
On the year, Bibbs, who didn't earn his first start of the season until six games in, finished the year with 1,741 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns. His 1,741 rushing yards set a new CSU record and also set the Mountain West sophomore-record for rushing yards in a season. Additionally, Bibbs became just the third running back in FBS history, joining Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State) and Montee Ball (Wisconsin), to rush for at least 30 touchdowns in a single season.
No touchdowns were bigger than his last however, as Bibbs' 31st touchdown of the season put the Rams in position to tie the game up with 33 seconds left in the game after CSU, which seemed dead in the water trailing 45-37 with two minutes left and no timeouts, forced a fumble to give the offense another opportunity. On the ensuing two-point conversion, the Rams channelled their inner Boise State Broncos and converted on a Statue of Liberty handoff to Donnell Alexander who stretched the ball over the pylon as he leapt out of bounds to tie the game up at 45-45.
On the very next kickoff, Colorado State once again came up with a big play as sophomore linebacker Steven Michel forced a fumble which freshman special teams standout Jake Schlager recovered. Sophomore kicker Jared Roberts, who is affectionately called "Kicker" by Head Coach Jim McElwain, sealed the victory with a 41-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Rams to a thrilling 48-45 victory.
After a pair of turnovers on each team's opening possessions, the Cougars got on the scoreboard first with a 25-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Connor Halliday to River Cracaft with 12:32 left in the first quarter. Washington State extended the lead to 14-0 with a 1-yard touchdown pass from Halliday to Gbe Marks which was set up by a blocked punt that put the Cougars on the Rams' five yard line.
The Rams responded on their next possession as junior quarterback Garrett Grayson found junior wide receiver Charles Lovett streaking down the field for a 63-yard strike to pull the Rams to 14-7 midway through the first quarter.
Once again, Washington State's offense got right back to work and found the end zone on another touchdown pass from Halliday, this time a 28-harder to Theron West with 5:27 left in the first quarter. The Cougars went 75 yards in eight plays on the drive, and received help from the Rams which extended the drive with an unsportsmanlike penalty to give WSU a first down.
Colorado State remained calm though and put forth two impressive drives that led to short-range field goals from Roberts. The first one came from 25 yards out which finished a seven play 84-yard drive, while the second one was a 19-yard field goal which capped off a grinding 19-play, 69-yard drive that chewed up 7:05 off the clock to make it 21-13 with 9:55 left in the first half.
Washington State pulled away from CSU on its next two possessions with a pair of touchdown passes from Halliday, who finished the day with 410 yards passing and six touchdown passes, a bowl game record.
Trailing 35-13 with just under three minutes left in the first half, the Rams did enough with the remaining time to keep themselves within striking distance of the Cougars. On its first possession, Colorado State marched 75 yards down the field and finished off the 1:49 long drive with a 1-yard touchdown run from Bibbs with 59 seconds left in the half. After a quick three-and-out from Washington State, the Rams set up Roberts who connected on a 30-yard field goal at the end of the half to make it 35-23 as the two teams went into the locker rooms.
Receiving the ball first in the second half, the Rams couldn't get anything going on their first drive and were forced to punt to the dangerous Washington State offense. Colorado State's defense did its part though, and held the Cougars to a field goal to keep it at a two-possession game at 38-23.
After a touchback on the kickoff, Bibbs exploded through the line on the first play of the drive. Nearly getting tripped up five yards down the line of scrimmage, Bibbs managed to keep his balance and accelerated away from the Cougars' defense for a 75-yard scamper to make it an eight-point game with 10:30 left in the game.
After a crucial stop, Colorado State got the ball back down 45-30 with 4:17 left in the game and two timeouts left. Grayson looked as poised as ever as he calmly led the Rams 72 yards down the field in just 1:25. On the final play of the drive, Grayson connected with freshman wide receiver Jordon Vaden for a 12-yard touchdown to make it 45-37 with 2:52 left in the game, and most importantly, Grayson preserved both of Colorado State's timeouts.
Grayson finished the game with 369 yards passing and two touchdowns as the Rams racked up 595 total yards of offense. For the season, Grayson finished with 3,696 yards passing, 297 completions and 23 touchdowns through the air. All three are single-season records for a Colorado State quarterback.
Trusting its defense to make a play, CSU kicked the ball off to Washington State. After using both of its timeouts, the Rams faced a key third down needing to get off the field. The Cougars converted with a nine-yard pass to seemingly put the nail in the coffin on the game with just over two minutes left.
On the first down play, Halliday kept the ball on a rush and was stripped of the football which was recovered by the Rams. After a lengthy review, however, the call was overturned and the Cougars maintained possession.
On the very next play, the Rams once again proved resilient as Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year Shaquil Barrett stripped Washington State running back Jeremiah Laufasa and also pounced on the ball with 1:51 left in the game.
From there, the rest was history.
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