Offensive Performance of the Year
Bibbs versus New Mexico
On a day where the Rams' defense could not stop a high school team, Kapri Bibbs did everything in his power to win the game for the Rams. He ran all over New Mexico for 291 yards and SIX touchdowns, FIVE in the second half. And they were not just garbage time touchdowns with a huge lead. Three of them came after New Mexico scoring drives to keep the Rams in the lead, while he ran for three in the fourth quarter to put the game away for good.
Defensive Performance of the Year
Barrett versus Washington State
What a way for an all-time great Ram to go out. He did not have the greatest game statistically, but almost single handedly won the bowl game for the Rams. With Colorado State down 8 with 2:01 left on the clock and Washington State's ball, Barrett wrapped quarterback Connor Halliday up on a option run and stripped him of the ball allowing Max Morgan to recover the fumble in Cougar territory. Unfortunately, after review it was apparent Halliday's knee was down and the Cougars got the ball back.
The very next play, Barrett corralled Washington State running back Jeremiah Laufasa and held him up long enough to strip the ball right out of his arms. Barrett then recovered his own forced fumble on the last second of his college career. It was a testament to the strength and determination Barrett has played with his entire career at Colorado State and gave the Rams the opportunity to win their first bowl game since 2008.
Team Performance of the Year
vs. Air Force
This was by far the most dominating performance the Rams have had in a long time. They scored 58 straight points to take a 58-0 lead before the subs allowed two late touchdowns. It was a pretty cathartic experience considering the margin of defeat in the seven game losing streak against the Falcons. But this time the defense came out prepared to stop the option attack and the offense got on a depleted secondary quickly. Garrett Grayson showed a killer instinct as he threw for 395 yards and 3 touchdowns for the best quarterback rating of his career, while Bibbs punched it in the end zone three times from less than five yards out.
Who else could this really be other than Bibbs? In his lone season at CSU, in which he did not even start until the sixth game, he set numerous records. These are too numerous and difficult to list, so I will link you to his Bio on csurams.com here. Bibbs was in large part, the reason Colorado State was able to pick up 7 wins and get to a bowl game. In that game, he had a 169 yards on the ground and three touchdowns, including a 75 yarder in which he broke a tackle from All-American safety Deone Bucannon. It will be tough to see him leave for the NFL after just one season, but he left plenty of great highlights and memories behind in a remarkable season.
It was a career year for one of Colorado State's all-time greats. Shaq Barrett was consistently a force to be reckoned with on the defensive side of the ball. His ability to rush the passer took the pressure off the players around him and allowed them to make plays. He was the leader the defense needed and that showed until the last second of his career as a Ram. He earned Mountain West Defensive POY with 12 sacks and a Mountain West record 20.5 tackles for loss. Those numbers were good enough for fifth in FBS football. His 12 sacks this season brought his career total up to 18, good enough for seventh on Colorado State's record books.
Special Teamer of the Year
Tie: Jared Roberts and Jake Schlager
I felt this award needed to recognize two players who made plays all year. Walk-on Jared Roberts further solidified his status as one of CSU's greatest kickers, moving into first play in terms of field goal accuracy. He connected on a career long of 54 yards against Air Force, and was a perfect 4-4 in the New Mexico Bowl. His 121 points this season is most all time by a Rams kicker.
Jake Schlager is a personification of the type of player Jim McElwain looks for. He is a true freshman safety, but did not see a lot of reps at the position. Instead he made his impact on special teams where he contributed on all four units. He tallied 17 tackles on kickoffs or punts, and many of those were solo stops. He gave 100% on every play and it really showed watching him on coverage units.
Rashard Higgins had his growing pains as he had to overcome a problem dropping passes, but he made up for it with his big play ability. He started each game for the Rams this season, and led them in all receiving categories. He ended the season with 64 receptions for 795 yards and six touchdowns, all good enough for top-five in the country amongst freshmen. Unfortunately, he was hurt in the bowl game and was unable to contribute fully, but he will be an exciting player for years to come.
'12th Man' Award
Jason Oden always seemed to provide quality snaps when needed. He only started two games when Kevin Pierre-Louis was injured, but consistently came in on nickel packages and played well. Between his work on special teams and as an extra defensive back, Oden compiled 36 tackles while playing in all 13 games. He forced several fumbles and a pass deflection against Wyoming led to a key interception to break up the Cowboys' momentum. In the New Mexico Bowl, he came up with the fumble on a Colorado State kickoff to allow Jared Roberts to kick the game winning field goal.
There were so many worthy nominees for this category; Max Morgan, Aaron Davis, Calvin Tonga, Jordon Vaden, Charles Lovett, to name a few, but I thought the award was best suited for the players that really made all of the offensive record breaking possible. The Rams' offensive line, led by seniors Weston Richburg, Jared Biard, Brandon Haynes, and Jordan Gragert, played exceptionally well almost all season. They paved way for the 24th ranked offense and were the only offense in all of college football with a 3000+ yard passer and 1500+ yard rusher. They were in large part the reason Kapri Bibbs was as successful as he was, and provided Garrett Grayson the time and comfort in the pocket to really build confidence in his game. They ranked 43rd in the country in sacks allowed, up from 90th last year and 104th a year before.
Play of the Year
Tie: Donnell Alexander catch vs. Wyoming and Two Point Conversion against WSU
If Top 10 plays were the sole indication of talent, the Rams will be just fine next year without Kapri Bibbs. Twice this season running back Donnell Alexander made incredibly athletic plays at important moments in games. The first happened in the third quarter against Wyoming. Wyoming had just made a big play for a touchdown and felt a shift in momentum, but before they could capitalize on it, Alexander struck back. On a wheel route out of the backfield, he blew past his defender and hauled in the catch with one hand to easily walk into the end zone. It put the Rams up 38-15 and effectively ended the game.
And who could forget the two-point conversion in the New Mexico Bowl? It required every bit of Alexander's athleticism and could not have come at a more needed time. After a touchdown by Kapri Bibbs, the Rams needed two points to tie the game at 45. Grayson took the snap out of pistol and performed a perfect "Statue of Liberty" play to hold the defense long enough to give Alexander a chance at the edge. Thanks to a key block from Brandon Haynes, Alexander had one man to beat to tie it up. He raced to the sideline and stretched with his entire body to barely hit the pylon with the nose of the ball. It was a fantastic display at the most important point in the ball game. Watch here.
Not Top 10 Play of the Year
Thomas Coffman fumble against Washington State
Thankfully we can laugh about this one as the ultimate result to the game was in the Rams favor. With 9:35 left in the game, Washington State had just scored a touchdown to take a 15 point lead. The game was quickly slipping out of the Rams fingers and a good kickoff return could have really helped get some momentum back on CSU's side. Unfortunately, Thomas Coffman botched the return as the ball went right through his arms and off his leg, rolling out of bounds at the two yard line. It felt like the final nail in the coffin, but as we know, that is not how the story would end.
Moment of the Season
Jared Roberts game-winner against Washington State
When Jared Roberts kick sailed through the goalposts from 41 yards out, it felt like all of the emotion built up throughout the season was finally let out as Ram fans stormed the field. Through all the ups-and-downs, all the triumphs and setbacks, the Rams finally got past the hump they have been stuck on so long. It helped that it capped an astonishing 18 point comeback in the final five minutes. As fans young and old rushed onto the field to celebrate a moment many could not imagine just a season ago, you could tell the program had taken a major leap forward.