FORT COLLINS, CO — An opportunity to spoil Homecoming and break an eight-game losing streak, squandered.
The University of New Mexico (3-3, 1-1 Mountain West) had an 18-17 lead with just over two minutes remaining in the game, but the two minute offense and a second chance for field goal kicker Wyatt Bryan gave the Colorado State Rams (3-4, 1-1 MW) a 20-18 victory on Saturday.
“I think we have a chance to have a good team, because there’s a bunch of hurting people in that locker room and because of that we have a chance to try to continue to get better,” head coach Bob Davie said.
The Lobo received the ball first, but didn’t hold it for long as Tyrone Owens fumbled on UNM’s second play from scrimmage and give the Rams offense an opening drive that began inside the red zone. CSU promptly took advantage, scoring only two plays later on a five-yard pass to wideout Preston Williams. Both teams struggled to generate offense, and the Rams held a 7-0 lead into the second quarter.
In the second, the Lobos offense put together a pair of long drives, starting with one that went for 75-yards but the Rams stopped a run on fourth-and-one and took over on downs inside their own five. CSU would turn that stop into a touchdown to take a 14-0 lead.
The Lobos were finally able to get on the board after driving 65-yards when Andrew Shelley converted a 29-yard field goal to put the Lobos on the board just over a minute before halftime. CSU had stopped three consecutive run plays inside the 25 to force the field goal, 14-3 Rams.
In the second half, after throwing only four times in the first half, UNM opened up the passing game. After a three and out on the first drive, the Lobos took five plays to drive 80 yards and score their first touchdown of the game. After an offside on the point after attempt, the Lobos used their re-do to convert a two-point conversion and shrink the Rams lead to three, 14-11.
CSU responded with a 22-yard field goal after a long, eight play, 71-yard drive that included a 45-yard pass to Olabisi Johnson that set the Rams up in the red zone. On the Lobos first drive of the fourth quarter, which began at the CSU 12-yard-line thanks to a 53-yard punt return from Marcus Hayes, Jones connected with Delane Hart-Johnson to give the Lobos a one-point lead, 18-17.
The Rams, who struggled to generate offense for most of the fourth quarter, had an opportunity to take the lead on a drive that chewed clock, but weren’t able to punch the ball into the end zone as the Lobo defense was able to stuff a pair of goalline opportunities for CSU and force an 18-yard field goal, which Bryan missed left, giving the Lobos the ball back with 2:29 to play and a one-point lead.
The Lobos offense, however, went three-and-out and handed the Rams the ball back less than 30 seconds later. One first down likely would have been enough to seal a New Mexico victory, but a pass to tight end Jeffery Jones was broken up to end the drive.
“We had a chance to make a play there,” Davie said. “(CSU) had pretty tight coverage, we actually had an opportunity to go somewhere else with the ball, but again, that happens.”
After the punt, the Rams started at the eight-yard line and drove the length of the field, with the benefit of a pass interference call that gave them a fresh set of downs near midfield. As CSU ran down the clock, Carta-Samuels moved the team down into the red zone and with three seconds left, set up a 26-yard field goal for Bryan, who would not miss a second time. With no time left, the Rams celebrated a 20-18 victory over the Lobos on Homecoming.
Sheriron Jones finished the day with 165 yards and two touchdowns on 12-of-20 passing. Tyrone Owens lead the Lobos on the ground with 65 yards on 18 carries. For the Rams, Carta-Samuels finished with 311 yards and one touchdown, while Izzy Matthews carried the ground game with 92 yards.
Cameron Goeldner is a sports beat reporter and photographer for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s soccer, women’s basketball, softball and the Albuquerque Isotopes, but also contributes content for baseball, basketball, football and track and field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @goeldfinger.