Rams prove again, "Ya Gotta Have Heart"

Using resources that aren't judged by a tape measure, the Colorado State Rams did it again – beating the odds and winning a crucial Mountain West Conference road game to advance to the school's third consecutive Bowl game. A 24-17 win over the New Mexico Lobos in Albuquerque locked up a 6-5 regular season, put the Rams in second place in the conference, and set them up to play in either the Las Vegas Bowl or the New Orleans Bowl next month.

The conference season will have to play out before the Rams know their destination.

Despite being outgained for the second straight week (380-295) and letting the Lobos control the ball for more than 32 minutes, the Rams (6-5, 5-2) capitalized on five New Mexico interceptions to secure the win.

Things went the Rams way early on, when they expanded a 6-0 half-time lead into a 14-0 advantage midway through the third quarter. After keeping a drive alive by eluding several tacklers and running for a first down deep in his own territory, Quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Dallas Davis to give CSU a two touchdown lead in the third quarter. Van Pelt also caught the 2-point conversion pass from Tailback Henri Childs.

But New Mexico struck back quickly, scoring two touchdowns in a 76-second span of the third quarter. Quarterback Casey Kelly threw an 85-yard scoring pass to Dwight Counter for one score, and on CSU's ensuing possession, defensive back Terrell Golden scooped up a disputed fumble by Van Pelt and returned it 24 yards for the tying score.

The Rams broke the 14-14 tie on a 6-yard run by Childs late in the third quarter. The score was set up by Davis' 44-yard punt return to the New Mexico 22. Naughton added a 19-yard field goal after New Mexico (5-5, 4-3) closed to 21-17 midway through the fourth quarter on Vladimir Borombozin's 24-yard field goal.

Kelly threw a school record-tying five interceptions; the last two of which killed potential game tying drives. Justin Gallimore came up with one at the CSU 19 with 2:30 left and Aaron Sprague had his second of the game on Kelly's pass into the end zone on the last play of the game. CSU intercepted Kelly three times in the first half - two of them leading to a pair of 35-yard field goals by Naughton. His second, on the final play of the first half, was set up by Sprague's 32-yard interception return to the New Mexico 14 with 40 seconds left.

The Rams also sacked Kelly three times. New Mexico's only scoring opportunity in the first half ended with a missed 25-yard field goal attempt by Borombozin late in the second quarter.

Saturday night, eighth-ranked BYU defeated Utah 24-17 to lock up the MWC race, and drop the Utes behind the Rams into third place in the conference. Utah still have a conference game to play against Air Force. A Utah win will put them into a tie with CSU for second place, giving the Las Vegas Bowl their choice of which team they want to play in their game. The New Orleans Bowl is obligated to take the third MWC team. New Mexico and Air Force still have game remaining as well that can make them Bowl-eligible.

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