FORT COLLINS, Colo. — :30, :29, :28, :27.
They say the last half minute of a tight football game can feel like hours.
:26, :25, :24.
This time last year, in Colorado State's 27-24 loss to Colorado, that final half minute felt like — well — 30 seconds.
:23, :22, :21.
If Sonny Lubick was coach at, say, Florida State instead of Colorado State, and if Justin Holland was the quarterback for, say, the Longhorns instead of the Rams, every wasted second of that wasted opportunity of a game would have been scrutinized and analyzed in detail over the past 360 days.
Instead, most of the state quickly moved on, and most of the scrutiny and analysis over the botched final moments of CSU's loss to its in-state rival has come from inside their own minds.
"Every time I think about football, I think about that game," Holland said.
"It haunted me for a while," Lubick concurs.
:20, :19, :18.
Colorado State had essentially been run out of Folsom Field in Boulder early in the game, falling behind by 17 to the seemingly more inspired Buffaloes.
But as the contest went on, things changed. CSU started grabbing the momentum, chipping away at the deficit, and it was no surprise that when the Rams took over on their 38-yard line with 2:36 remaining, Lubick was thinking about scoring the winning touchdown, not the tying field goal.
"At that point in time, we're going for the win," Lubick said. "If we ever had a chance to win one, this was it."
:17, :16, :15.
The drive set up the way most successful 2-minute drills do — a 21-yard pass to David Anderson followed by a 16-yard pass to Dustin Osborn and an 8-yard run by Marcus Houston gave the Rams second-and-2 from the Colorado 17 with 1:35 left.
"I might have been a little stubborn there," Lubick said. "But everything was going for us, so I put a field goal out of my mind."
Of course, as the field got shorter, big chunks of yards became harder to come by.
Holland completed a 5-yard pass to Joel Dreessen, who tiptoed out of bounds for a first down at the 12. After a 1-yard gain, CSU took its last timeout. That was followed by a 1-yard loss and then, an 11-yard completion to Anderson on 3rd-and-10 that gave the Rams first-and-goal from the 1 with 34 seconds left.
Holland spiked the ball to stop the clock with 30 seconds left. Then, seemingly everything he and Lubick and football fans across America had learned or known about clock management at the end of a football game went out the window.
"It was not knowing the situation," Holland said. "It could have been handled a lot better."
Holland took the snap and handed off to Houston, who was stopped for no gain, making it third-and-goal with 25 seconds left.
"I've always thought that the best thing to do, is when you've got one yard to go, hand the ball off and go get one yard," Lubick said.
:12, :11, :10.
Knowing that spiking the ball to stop the clock and get the field-goal team out there to tie the game was out of the cards, Holland got the offense lined up and called a play at the line of scrimmage for third-and-goal.
Getting the Rams "organized" seemed to take forever.
:09, :08, :07, :06, :05, :04.
Finally, with three seconds left, Holland took the snap for what would be the last play of the game.
What nobody knew as the snap came his way was that, in his mad rush to get the play ready, Holland had mistakenly called for the pitch to go left and the linemen to go right. Holland pitched the ball to Tristan Walker, who was going left. With nobody to block for him, Walker was tackled easily by J.J. Billingsley for a 3-yard loss.
:03, :02, :01, :00.
"It was a game I wanted to win so badly and we had the opportunity to win," Holland said.
The quarterback has tried to take the blame, but Lubick won't let him.
The coach is well-positioned to be a fall guy for this one.
He is 95-51 in 12 years in Fort Collins and though that includes a 3-7 record against Colorado, he has taken the Rams to places their fans only dreamed of.
At Hughes Stadium, the home of the Rams, they play on "Sonny Lubick Field."
The coach said it took a while, but he finally put the loss behind him.
This Saturday, he, Holland and the Rams get another chance at Colorado.
"For coaches, all those close losses kind of linger," Lubick said. "Why the heck didn't we do this? Why the heck didn't we do that? But as far as the last five or six months, it's a whole new season. You've got to let those things go and enjoy life — enjoy the darn game, and that's what we're going to do."