5 takeaways from CSU’s comeback win over Arkansas

K.J. Carta-Samuels. Credit: Isaiah J. Downing, USA Today Sports.

Colorado State came out and fought stalwartly against an SEC team in Arkansas, and found a way to come back and win 34-27.

It was a great effort from the Rams. For the first time all season, they came out prepared, energetic and hungry for the win. And, for the first time all year, Colorado State led the game early, 3-0.

Eventually, Arkansas found their footing and pushed to take the 13-9 lead into half time, and the Razorbacks actually pushed their lead to 27-9 in the third quarter. Still, the Rams pushed, fought and clawed their way back into the game with drive after drive, putting 25 points on the board in the second half to win in thrilling fashion.

“I wouldn’t want to win any other way,” said Mike Bobo after the game. “I’m proud to be a Ram and proud to coach this football team.”

Hanging around and then beating an SEC team was massive for Mike Bobo and the Rams; let’s look at the biggest takeaways from the game:

1. The Rams have resolve. K.J. Carta-Samuels and the offense fought through a very difficult start of the game to bring the Rams all the way back. In the first half, they had to settle for three field goals and had a mere five first downs. Partly because the running game was inept, with zero total rushing yards deep into the fourth quarter. But, the passing game came alive in the second half. First, Carta-Samuels found Cam Butler on a 54-yard pass that set up a passing score to Williams and a two-point conversion, too.

Then, in the fourth quarter, Carta-Samuels led a 94-yard drive — including an amazing pass and catch of 31 yards with Williams — and capped it off with an athletic touchdown catch by Williams to pull CSU within three points, at 27-24. Then, they tied it up 27-27 late in the fourth, settling for another field goal. Finally, Colorado State’s defense made yet another stand, forcing a punt, in which the Rams offense turned around and marched into the end zone for the 34-27 victory.

This goes down as the biggest win in Mike Bobo’s coaching tenure with Colorado State.

2. CSU’s defense finally showed up to the gridiron in 2018. The defense, which gave up 600-plus yards to Hawaii and then nearly 600 yards to Colorado, started the game Saturday night by picking off Arkansas quarterback Ty Storey. The defense held Arkansas to one touchdown, two field goals, two punts and the two interceptions in the first half, limiting the Razorbacks to a mere 13 points at the break. First, Jordan Fogal picked off Ty Storey when his receiver fell down. Then, Emmanuel Jones was able to intercept one of Storey’s passes when Josh Watson pressured him. Those two turnovers definitely helped Colorado State stay in the game and build momentum.

Arkansas finished with 437 total yards, which was a vast improvement compared to earlier games in the season.

3. While the defense came to play — at least in the first half — the offense was awful for most of the game for Colorado State. They had a mere two first downs for nearly the entire first half, gaining three on one drive alone, to end that half with only five. Because of the ineptitude, they had to settle for long field goal after long field goal — and Wyatt Bryan was good on them — but the Rams really needed to score at least one touchdown. Finally, they turned it around in the second half.

Carta-Samuels and Preston Williams were magical, connecting on 12 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns. When it wasn’t Williams, Carta-Samuels was throwing to Cam Butler (4 receptions, 104 yards), Bisi Johnson (5, 47 yards) and others. CSU finished with 429 yards of total offense — with only 40 rushing yards — as Carta-Samuels put the offense on his shoulders.

4. Untimely penalties almost killed CSU. First, Anthony Hawkins jumped offsides on a missed field goal by Arkansas. The Razorbacks ended up continuing to march down field after that 49-yard miss and score their first touchdown of the day to take the 7-3 lead. In the second quarter, Rashad Ajayi was called correctly for a pass interference on a key third down, but the defense was able to hold Arkansas to a field goal on that drive. To start the second half, Josh Watson was called for a facemask personal foul to help the Razorbacks push down field and score another touchdown to push their lead to 11. But, the Rams were resilient and pushed through all those mistakes to win.

5. Turnovers also hurt the Rams. K.J. Carta-Samuels threw an interception on CSU’s third drive of the day — while they were leading 3-0 — when Preston Williams stopped on a go route down the sideline and jumped too early. That one didn’t hurt the Rams too much because Arkansas was held to a punt, but if CSU was able to score there, they could’ve continued their momentum. In the second half, following a Razorbacks touchdown, Carta-Samuels was strip-sacked which led to a game-changing, 64-yard catch and run by T.J. Hammonds to the house to extend the lead to 27-9.

Still, even with the sloppy play — in penalties and turnovers — even with the slow offensive start, even with the defense falling apart in the third quarter; Colorado State found a way to beat an SEC team for only the second time in their history.

It was, without a doubt, the biggest win in Bobo’s career as head coach.