FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) -- With only nine first downs, Colorado
State had to find alternative ways to win.
The Rams (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 AP) converted two turnovers into touchdowns, including
Rhett Nelson's long fumble return. They also blocked a punt for a
safety, and their defense had two fourth-down stops in the second
The result was a 22-14 win over New Mexico on Saturday night
that clinched the Mountain West title.
The Rams (10-2, 6-0) posted their sixth straight
victory, even though leading rusher Cecil Sapp played only
sparingly because of turf toe in his left foot.
New Mexico (6-6, 4-2) rallied from a 19-0 second-quarter deficit
with a pair of TDs, getting to 22-14 late in the third quarter. But
the Lobos couldn't overcome failures on fourth down in the second
Colorado State, headed to the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31, prevailed
despite being outgained 307-252.
"We did the things that win football games,'' coach Sonny
Lubick said. "We won the special teams battle. We were huge on
fourth down defensively, and we forced a couple of turnovers.
"There are only a few teams with 10 victories out there right
now. That says a lot.''
Sapp, who did not start, finished with 36 yards on 14 carries.
With 1,338 yards on the season, he remains within reach of the
school single-season rushing record of 1,419, set by Steve Bartalo
"He wasn't running like the Cecil of old,'' Lubick said, "but
the one thing about Cecil is you can always depend on him
protecting the football.''
New Mexico coach Rocky Long, whose team could have tied Colorado
State for first place in the conference with a victory, said,
"Aside from the turnovers, our team played like this was a title
"We didn't win the field-position battle, and we made too many
mistakes. We turned the ball over too much.''
After a safety and field goal, Colorado State increased its lead
to 12-0 late in the opening period.
After Jeff Babcock's 23-yard field goal made it 5-0, Lobos
freshman tailback DonTrell Moore fumbled when he was hit by
linebacker Adam Wade, and linebacker Drew Wood recovered at the New
Quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt capped a six-play scoring drive
with a 3-yard run, putting Colorado State ahead 12-0 late in the
Midway through the second quarter, Moore fumbled again at the
end of a 12-yard run when hit by safety David Vickers. Wade picked
it up and ran 9 yards before lateraling to Nelson, who went the
final 54 yards for a 63-yard touchdown return and a 19-0 lead.
Asked why he pitched the ball back to Nelson, Wade said, "I got
caught last year against Wyoming twice on the 1-yard line. I wasn't
going to get caught again. He (Nelson) told me to pitch it. I
didn't realize at the time how big the play was going to be.''
New Mexico responded with a 16-play, 78-yard drive that consumed
7:15 and ended with backup quarterback Justin Millea's 1-yard run.
The drive included a 15-yard pass-interference penalty against the
Rams and Casey Kelly's 10-yard pass to Dwight Counter on
Babcock's 46-yard field goal put the Rams ahead 22-7 midway
through the third quarter.
Moore, who finished with 181 yards rushing, carried five times
on a six-yard drive, including his 12-yard scoring run, to cut the
deficit to 22-14 late in the period.
Moore, who was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-1 at the
Colorado State 41 by Bryan Save early in the third period, was
dumped again for no gain on a fourth-and-10 pass play with 3:11
left by linebacker Drew Wood and defensive end Peter Hogan.
Three plays later, Van Pelt's 27-yard run clinched it.
The Rams led 19-7 at halftime despite being outgained 167-98.
Minutes into the game, Joey Huber's 60-yard punt pinned New
Mexico at its 10-yard line, and Tyler Gaus' ensuing punt was
blocked by David Anderson through the end zone for a safety.
Van Pelt's 34-yard run on a quarterback draw set up Babcock's
first field goal for a 5-0 lead.
Van Pelt wound up with 106 yards rushing.
New Mexico needs a victory in its final game, at home against
Wyoming, to become bowl-eligible.