FORT COLLINS — On homecoming night at Canvas Stadium and in front of the fourth-largest crowd in the young history of the venue, Colorado State came up just short against Utah State in its bid to win two games in a row after an 0-4 start.
More than 35,000 fans showed up Saturday, but visiting Utah State rallied from a 10-7 halftime deficit to defeat the Rams, 17-13, and hand CSU its first Mountain West Conference loss.
The Aggies (3-4 overall, 2-1 Mountain West) outscored CSU 10-3 after the Rams (1-5, 1-1) had gone ahead 10-7 in the second quarter.
“It was disappointing that we couldn’t find a way to close this game out,” CSU head coach Jay Norvell said. “It was certainly a game that we could have won. We have to go back and help these players improve and our staff’s got to do a great job of doing that.”
A week after kicking a field goal to defeat Nevada with no time left on the clock, there were no late-game heroics by the Rams against the Aggies, despite CSU scoring first and taking a lead into halftime. Late in the fourth quarter, quarterback Giles Pooler threw an interception, and the Aggies were able to run out the clock from there.
CSU got the scoring started early in the first quarter, capitalizing on a turnover and turning it into points.
On Utah State’s first possession, the Aggies drove to midfield only to throw an interception. CSU’s Cam’Ron Carter picked off the pass and returned it to the Utah State 29-yard line. The Rams drove to the Aggies’ 6, where the drive stalled and they had to kick a 23-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead with 11:45 remaining in the first quarter.
Carter’s interception gave the Rams a pickoff in five consecutive games, their longest such streak since they had an interception in six straight games in 2009.
Utah State took its first lead of the game late in the first quarter. After missing a 45-yard field goal earlier in the period, they forced a CSU punt and then drove to the Rams’ 32, where Cooper Legas fired a pass into the end zone for Justin McGriff who caught it for a touchdown. That gave Utah State a 7-3 lead with 1:54 left in the first quarter.
The Rams took over and Avery Morrow, picking up where he left off after his 168-yard performance last week against Nevada, scored on a 26-yard run to put CSU back on top, 10-7 with 14:21 remaining in the second quarter.
Morrow finished the first half with 92 yards en route to 116 for the game, his second in a row with over 100 yards on the ground.
“I give all props to the O-line,” Morrow said. “Without them, I’m nothing. They work real hard.”
CSU had an opportunity late in the half to add onto their lead. Dane Olson blocked a Utah State punt and Greg Laday recovered it at the Aggies’ 20-yard line. However, the drive ended with a field goal attempt that was no good.
The Rams took a 10-7 lead into halftime.
After missing two field goals in the first half, the Aggies finally got one to go through early in the third quarter. After forcing a CSU punt, they drove to the Rams’ 31-yard line and kicked a 48-yard field goal to tie the game at 10 with 10:57 left in the third period.
Utah State took its first lead since the first quarter midway through the third on a 4-yard run to give the Aggies a 17-10 lead with 7:34 remaining in the third.
Michael Boyle kicked a 35-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to cut the Utah State lead to 17-13, but that would be as close as the Rams would get, despite a defensive effort that allowed fewer than 20 points for the second week in a row.
“I was very impressed with our defensive effort tonight, forcing turnovers, helping us get in position where we could score, ” Norvell said. “I think we are building on some understanding defensively and building on some guys that are performers on that side of the ball and that is really good to see.”
CSU will be back in action next Saturday when the Rams host Hawaii at 2 p.m. at Canvas Stadium.