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Buffs squeak past Rams again

BOULDER, Colo. — The win brought as much relief as jubilation for Colorado.

The loss brought more anger than heartbreak for Colorado State.

Like a couple of brothers going at it in the backyard before dinner, the Buffs and Rams looked like they could've kept playing forever Saturday evening. Naturally, the team that scored last won. This time, it was the Buffaloes who sneaked away on top, 31-28.

"A classic for college football," Buffs coach Gary Barnett called it after watching his team overcome an 11-point deficit over the final 13 1/2 minutes.

Mason Crosby kicked a 47-yard field goal with 4 seconds left for the game-winner — the last of 20 points the rivals put up over the frantic, final 2:32.

When it was over, CU fans flooded the field and a record Folsom Field crowd of 54,972 — save the small cloister of Rams fans in the corner — celebrated a win in one of the most underrated rivalries in the country.

Tight end Quinn Sypniewski left the field carrying the silver trophy awarded to the winner each year. Did he know what the trophy was called?

"Ours," Sypniewski said, as he worked his way toward a happy locker room with the Centennial Cup.

Many in Boulder condescendingly view CSU as the little brother in this Rocky Mountain rivalry.

"But if we're such an underdog, why are they coming onto the field?" CSU quarterback Justin Holland asked.

Indeed, CSU has proven itself very much a challenge for Colorado. But CU has won three straight and in the last two games, the difference has been three points — one field goal from the leg of arguably the nation's best kicker.

Crosby's game-winner came on his 21st birthday and added to a 48-yarder that cleared the crossbar by plenty with 2:32 left to tie the game at 21.

"He's got a hell of a leg and he's hurt us the last couple years," Holland said.

Two plays after Crosby tied it, Holland threw his third interception over a 15-minute span, a forced floater that Gerett Burl caught and returned to the CSU 23. On the next snap, Hugh Charles ran untouched for a touchdown, his second score of the fourth quarter, to make it 28-21 with 1:30 left.

Holland came back, though, and marched the Rams 80 yards in 54 seconds, capping it with a 9-yard pass to Kory Sperry to make it 28-27. CSU coach Sonny Lubick thought about going for 2, "but they talked me out of it," he said of his assistants.

After the extra point, CSU squibbed the kickoff, but Colorado returned it to the 40. Joel Klatt (22-for-33, 283 yards) hit Patrick Williams to get the ball into Rams territory and after an eight-yard gain, Crosby came on for the win.

Crosby, whose range is estimated at around 70 yards, said he didn't even know how long the final attempt was when he walked onto the field.

"That whole last kick was probably mental," he said. "Once I hit the ball, I just really didn't think about it. I had been preparing on the sideline."

It marked a second straight tough loss in this series for the Rams. This one was made worse because CSU dominated through most of three quarters, taking a 21-10 lead and leaving the Buffs looking helpless.

"Nobody's heartbroken in there," Holland said of the CSU locker room. "We're more mad than anything."

AIR FORCE 20, WASHINGTON 17: At Seattle, a 13-point fourth quarter rally by Air Force spoiled the debut of Tyrone Willingham as coach at Washington.

Quarterback Shaun Carney scored on a 1-yard run with 34 seconds left, and the Falcons came from behind to beat the Huskies 20-17 on Saturday.

With Air Force down 17-13, Carney directed a 14-play, 83-yard drive that ate most of the final six minutes. The Falcons converted on fourth-and-2 with 4 minutes left after Carney scrambled for four yards.

Carney found Jason Brown for a 20-yard completion on third down, then hit Greg Kirkwood for 14-yards to the 1 on third-and-9 with 1:02 left. Carney scored two plays later.

It was a frustrating outcome for Washington, who dropped its seventh-straight dating back to last season. The Huskies last win came Oct. 9, 2004, a 21-6 win over San Jose State.

Washington went ahead 17-6 early in the fourth quarter. Isaiah Stanback, who was named the starting quarterback on Tuesday, was conservative and efficient against the Falcons' defense.

When he finally took a shot downfield, Stanback made his best throw of the day, pumping right, then coming back to the left and finding Cody Ellis for a 27-yard touchdown.

Stanback finished 19-for-27 for 242 yards in just his second start.

Air Force didn't go quietly. Kirkwood muffed the ensuing kickoff, putting the Falcons at the 1. After moving the ball to the 16, Kirkwood made up for the mistake, beating reserve cornerback Josh Okoebor for an 84-yard TD — the fourth-longest touchdown in school history.

Kirkwood finished with six catches for 134 yards. Carney rushed 20 times for 69 yards.