3:00 PM ET, November 12, 2005
Hughes Stadium (CO), Fort Collins, CO
FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) -- Feelings of failure now surround what could have been a special season for Colorado State, or at least one that ended at a bowl game. The Rams can blame San Diego State for that. They can blame themselves, too.
Kevin O'Connell threw for 179 yards and two touchdowns and San Diego State took advantage of all kinds of CSU mistakes and missed opportunities Saturday, en route to a 30-10 victory that dealt a huge blow to Colorado State's postseason hopes.
"There isn't much to say except that we laid an egg out there," CSU coach Sonny Lubick said.
Chaz Schilens had six catches for 85 yards, Jeff Webb had a pretty touchdown catch in the back of the end zone and Lynell Hamilton ran for 108 yards to help San Diego State (4-6, 3-4 Mountain West) hand CSU its first home loss of the year.
The Aztecs intercepted three passes, stopped CSU twice on big fourth-down plays and forced the Rams to settle for field goal tries on two trips inside the 10.
They kept their hopes alive to finish at .500 and improved on a year in which the record may not accurately reflect the talent on the roster. The Aztecs had already swept Utah and BYU for the first time since 1986. Two weeks ago, they fell 23-20 to conference champion TCU -- a game SD State had a couple of chances to win.
"Everyone says we've had an up-and-down season, like a roller coaster," said coach Tom Craft, who turned 52 on Saturday. "But this team is much better than the record indicates."
It showed against the Rams (5-5, 4-3), who had everything to play for in this, their final home game of the season. They could have ensured a winning record and qualified for the postseason, but they were downright dreadful from beginning to end.
Not even Kyle Bell's 176-yard rushing performance could make up for the flat, ineffective effort, the kind Lubick has routinely avoided over his 13 largely successful seasons in Fort Collins.
"Why didn't we win? Why did it happen? I'm still looking for answers," Bell said. "We were playing for a bowl bid and played like this. There were too many mistakes. Way too many mistakes."
CSU can still finish with a winning record by defeating UNLV next week. But with only three guaranteed bowl bids available for the Mountain West, and with four, maybe five, other teams competing for them, Lubick acknowledged the loss likely ends the Rams' chances.
"I think it does. Sure," he said.
CSU's ineptness began early, when defensive end Bob Vomhof drew a 15-yard penalty for going after Aztecs lineman Jasper Harvey well after the play had ended and after the Rams had stopped San Diego State on third down. Three plays later, the Aztecs scored their first touchdown, a 20-yard pass from O'Connell to Schilens.
"I got a damn penalty, isn't that enough?" Vomhof said when asked to comment on the play. "We made every mistake we could make. That was one of them."
Late in the first quarter, CSU recovered a fumble at the San Diego State 20, but had to settle for a short field goal.
In the second, Webb reached out for a nice catch and got one foot down in the back of the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown that made it 17-3.
The Rams trailed 20-3 at halftime, sending much of the crowd of 25,411 to the exits and creating a traffic jam out of cold, blustery Hughes Stadium that lingered well into the third quarter.
"I'd like to blame it on the cold weather, but that had nothing to do with it," Lubick said.
There were dropped passes, ill-timed penalties, a shanked 26-yard field goal attempt by Jason Smith and lots of other missed opportunities. A pair of O'Connell passes hit CSU defenders Jon Radford and Robert Herbert right in the hands. Each had clear sailing to the end zone for a touchdown that could have put CSU back in the game in the third quarter, but both dropped the ball.
CSU's final chance came with 5 minutes left in the game. Trailing 23-10, Justin Holland threw an interception into the end zone on fourth down to Terrell Maze. Holland finished with 165 yards passing.
"This shouldn't have happened," Holland said. "Not with a veteran team like we have."
San Diego State, meanwhile, has a young team. A 6-6 finish is still possible with wins against Wyoming and Hawaii to close the season.
"The guys are maturing and learning to handle themselves," Craft said. "They are maturing as a football team."