As Wyatt Bryan’s 26-yard field goal sailed through the uprights on Saturday afternoon in Fort Collins, giving the Colorado State Rams a 20-18 win over the New Mexico Lobos, CSU fans cheered, while Lobo players and coaches left the field dejected and wondering “What might have been?”
For much of the game the Lobos were lethargic on offense, gaining just 165 yards and scoring three points in the first half, and the defense held on long enough to keep it a game. Finally the Lobos sputtering offense struck twice more in the 2nd half; Sheriron Jones hit Elijah Lilly for a 23 yard touchdown to cap a five play 80-yard drive in the third quarter to draw within 14-11. After holding Colorado State to a field goal, the Lobos struck again, this time after being set up by a 53-yard punt return by Marcus Hayes to the CSU 12, as Jones found Delane Hart-Johnson from five yards out and the PAT gave the Lobos an 18-17 lead in the 4th quarter.
CSU then grinded out a long drive, got it to the Lobo one yard line before being held to a field goal attempt of 18-yards, and Bryan hooked it. With 2:26 to go, it appeared the Lobos were going to end their eight game winning streak against the Rams. Then the wheels fell off.
Armed with all three of their timeouts, Colorado State’s defense held UNM to a three and out and only used up two of their timeouts. The Lobos punted to CSU with 2:01 left to play. The Lobos would self destruct on defense; aiding the Rams on the last drive with a pass interference penalty, then poor tackling, and poor pass defense helped CSU drive to the Lobo eight, where Bryan would redeem himself by hitting the game winner.
The Lobos have to be wondering “what if?” They mustered only 299 total yards of offense against a defense that had been allowing 470 yards a game entering the contest. They failed to force a turnover for the first time this season, failing to take advantage of turnover prone KJ Carta-Samuels, who ended up passing for 311 yards and a touchdown, he also rushed for a touchdown. Also, the Lobos were gift-wrapped the game after Bryan missed the chip shot of all chip shot field goals from 18 yards away, all they needed was a first down and couldn’t get one.
As bad as it seems to lose, it looks even worse with the next three games looming on the schedule as they are all against top MWC teams (Fresno State, San Diego State, Utah State). Shaking off this loss is a must for the Lobos if they plan on going bowling this season. They sit at 3-3 overall and 1-1 in MWC play, but four of their remaining six games they will be heavy underdogs, and needing to shock at least one of those teams down the stretch.
Halfway through the season and things are looking up, the Lobos have been in this situation before, and they need to get back to what they do best so it ends like 2016, and not 2017.
Next up for the Lobos is a nationally televised game on ESPNU with Fresno State coming to Albuquerque next Saturday night. The Lobos have lost six straight to the Bulldogs, not winning since 1994 when Dennis Franchione was the coach.