Courtesy Loveland Reporter-Herald
DENVER -- Pretty football is rarely seen on the opening weekend, and Saturday's Rocky Mountain Showdown was no exception to the rule.
The outcome, however, was, at least in the case of Colorado State's football program. The Rams entered 2012 on an eight-game losing streak with a new coach, and past history suggested new leaders at the school don't beat Colorado in their first season (it had never happened) and don't win their openers (six straight had gone down to defeat).
But on the strength of three Jared Roberts field goals and a pair of touchdown passes from Garrett Grayson, the Rams bucked a lot of recent trends in delivering a 22-17 victory over their in-state rivals at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
"It's so cool to do it, and it needs to become more of a habit, I think," Colorado State center Weston Richburg said. "With Coach Mac coming in, I think it's going to become that, so, it's huge."
The Rams faced some hardships in the game, had some good plays go sour and a few calls go against them, as many teams do. They also survived missing a fourth-and-1 conversion from midfield, but came up with a goal-line stand a play after they felt they had a 100-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
Even Colorado coach Jon Embree, who was careful with his words, said he thought it was a Rams team that had more belief. The reason the Rams players believe they came out victors on the other end was simple.
"It represents a lot, because I promise you right now back then, last year, when things start going down, we'd probably put it in the tank," receiver Dominique Vinson said.
Win the next play has been McElwain's credo, and he felt that's what his team did. Through an onside kick that was called back, two fumble calls that were reversed -- one of which erased what the Rams celebrated as a 100-yard runback by safety Austin Gray -- the Rams looked forward.
"We've got a long ways to go on offense," McElwain said. "But we figured out a way to win, and I think the important thing is in this game, don't ever get caught up in numbers. The number that counts is how you win. Did we win the game?
"Figure out a way to win the game, and I think they did."
After Roberts put the Rams on the board first with a 47-yard field goal, Colorado came back behind the passing of Jordan Webb to take a 14-3 lead. Webb hit Nelson Spruce on a 15-yard strike, then followed up on the next drive with a 9-yard scoring pass to Tyler McCullough.
Colorado appeared to be on a roll at that time, but when D.D. Goodson muffed a punt, it set up the Rams on the CU 20. A play later, Grayson hit a wide open Dominique Vinson for the score, and even though the extra point was blocked, the Rams were back in the game.
"We could have gone in 14-3 and been down on ourselves like we were last year," Grayson said after completing 14 of his 21 passes for 173 yards. "But having that momentum, I came in here and the first thing I said was, 'momentum is ours, momentum is ours, let's change this.' That's the way we went out in the second half and took control."
After stopping Colorado on its first possession of the third quarter, CSU struck with an eight-play, 89-yard drive that closed with true freshman Joe Hansley taking a wide receiver screen and dodging and dashing his way 32 yards to the end zone and a 16-14 lead for Colorado State.
From there, the CSU defense gained a little more control, putting a better pass rush on Webb and allowing just one CU field goal in the second half. It gave the Buffs a brief lead at 17-16, but Roberts countered with two more, the first a 48-yarder with 6:39 to go in the game.
Roberts, who started fall camp as a walk-on sophomore, was given a scholarship at the end of fall camp.
"It's a good thing we had something left over, isn't it," McElwain quipped. "But he did that all spring, he did it in the fall. The reason you're a kicker is you're supposed to make it, and he did it. One of the things we preach to our guys is do your job. I don't care what you're job is, just do it."
Mike Brohard can be reached at 635-3633, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mbrohard
EYE ON NOCO