As the final seconds ticked down on Colorado State’s 31-17 victory over rival Colorado, coach Jim McElwain grabbed running back Dee Hart and gave him a big hug.
Were it not for the play of Hart and fellow running back Treyous Jarrells, the Rams probably would have lost the game. Both players rushed for 100 yards in their first games with Colorado State – Hart had 139 yards and Jarrells had 121 — to give the Rams two 100-yard running backs in the same game for the first time since 1996.
What’s most shocking about the Rams running game on Friday was that it didn’t really come together until the beginning of August. Hart left the Alabama program after the bowl game, got into some trouble with the law, graduated and then found himself reunited with McElwain, who used to be the offensive coordinator for the Tide. Jarrells, a junior college transfer from Grossmont Community College in El Cajon, Calif., didn’t join the Rams until the end of the spring.
Yet there was a major need for both players after Kapri Bibbs, who rushed for a single-season school record 1,741 yards and 31 touchdowns a year ago, left for the NFL and Donnell Alexander quit the team after just one spring practice. That left the Rams with Eric Williams, who played in one game in 2013, Jasen Oden, who converted from safety, and redshirt freshman Bryce Peters.
The addition of a strong running game makes Colorado State a far more intriguing program, especially since quarterback Garrett Grayson was stymied in this game completing just 56 percent of his passes for 134 yards and a touchdown (Grayson did throw for a school-record 3,696 yards a year ago). And a win over rival Colorado will do wonders for the Rams confidence especially going into a Mountain West Conference game against Boise State next week.
As for Colorado, many believed this was a must win if the Buffs wanted to go to a bowl game for the first time since 2007. It was a pretty much a tale of two halves for the Buffs. In the first half they looked solid and confident. In the second half they looked like the same Colorado teams that have struggled in recent seasons.
There aren’t many gimmes on Colorado’s schedule. Games against UMass (Sept. 6) and Hawaii (Sept. 20) are winnable, but the Buffs are going to have to steal some Pac-12 games to get to that elusive six wins. If they play like they did in the first half where quarterback Sefo Liufau was connecting with Nelson Spruce, who had seven catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns, then Colorado could beat some teams many might not expect them to beat. But if they play like they did in the second half where they struggled to have any offensive consistency, it’s going to be another long season.
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