Funny thing Saturday. After a halftime deadlock against a Utah State team that the oddsmakers had determined was a 20-point patsy, WAC title contender Colorado State decided to stop the Aggies' nearly non-existent running game in the second half and wound up decimating USU's passing game as well.
Colorado State took a three-point lead into the fourth quarter at Hughes Stadium and then really put the heat on the Aggies with three sacks, two interceptions - one caught by the receiver but dropped into the defender's hands - and a fumble recovery that helped give the Rams the ball three consecutive times at the Aggie 20-yard line, or closer, and four times within the Aggie 30 in the final 15 minutes.The result was an Aggie-staggering 41-16 win for Colorado State, now 2-0. USU fell to 0-2.
"They just pinned their ears back and came," said USU quarterback Matt Wells, the sophomore starting just his second game behind an offensive line that's even less experienced than he is. "Their defensive ends were just getting up the field," Wells said.
"We've got to learn to play two halves," Wells added, echoing the thoughts of USU coach Charlie Weatherbie.
"We weren't near as intense the second half," said Weatherbie, whose team hadn't been intense in either half last week in a loss to Utah. This was a great improvement from that, at least for the first half when the Aggies had a 10-10 tie.
"We couldn't move the football real well the third quarter," said Weatherbie. "Couldn't run. The fourth quarter, things fell apart. We turned the ball over three times inside our 20, gave up a long punt return (36 yards) and missed a lot of tackles," Weatherbie said.
"The third quarter," said Rams' coach Sonny Lubick, "our defense took control of the football game and kept them in a hole. We got the momentum and kept building."
Lubick said CSU had spent the first half worrying about stopping USU's running attack, which had totaled 39 yards last week and had only 51 yards at halftime Saturday. The Aggies finished with 38 net yards rushing, losing 77 yards on negative rushes and sacks.
"The second half, we said, `The heck with it if they throw. The second half we'll concentrate on tacking the run away,"' Lubick said. "The defensive front four got revved up for some reason - I wish I could say it was something I said at halftime," Lubick added.
"Once we had those people reeling, they (CSU's defense) had that killer instinct."
Abu Wilson netted 33 rushing yards and a touchdown for Utah State, and starter Profail Grier netted 29 yards (with 20 yards in losses) as he perhaps tried to break a big run every play. "I felt like (Grier) ran laterally too much," said Weatherbie. "A lot of that," he added, "has to do with the blocking."
The USU game plan called for Aggie receivers to be mainly blockers to help establish the running game and protect Wells, said Kevin Alexander, who caught one pass but returned a kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown to keep the fourth quarter from being perfect for Colorado State.
Wells completed seven or 21 passes for 45 yards with the two late interceptions. Backup Aaron Flowers was 4-for-8 for 55 yards in the final three minutes.
Big West Standings
Team W L T W L T
SW Louisiana 1 0 0 1 1 0
Nevada 0 0 0 2 0 0
UNLV 0 0 0 1 1 0
Pacific U. 0 0 0 1 1 0
Utah St. 0 0 0 0 2 0
New Mex. St. 0 0 0 0 2 0
San Jose St. 0 0 0 0 2 0
Arkansas St. 0 0 0 0 2 0
La. Tech 0 0 0 0 2 0
N. Illinois 0 1 0 0 2 0
Colorado St. 41, Utah St. 16
Nevada 18, Arkansas St. 0
Cent. Michigan 35, UNLV 23
Houston 70, Louisiana Tech 32
Minnesota 33, Pacific 7
SW Louisiana 29, N. Illinois 9
Baylor 54, San Jose St. 20
Arizona 44, New Mexico St. 0