Rams Escape Virginia with Season Opening Victory

If you didn't check the calendar, you would have thought the Virginia Cavaliers had joined the Mountain West Conference, and you were watching another mid-season MWC tilt where the Colorado State Rams work their late game mojo on another unsuspecting and unfortunate MWC foe.

Instead, a sell-out crowd and a national television audience saw the Cavs, a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, open the season by turning the ball over five times - including a fumble at the CSU goal line in the waning seconds - that helped the Rams escape Charlottesville with a thrilling 35-29 win in the Jim Thorpe Classic.

Colorado State, on the other hand, played like a team in mid-season form, with Cecil Sapp rushing for a career-high 178 yards (including a 72-yard TD scamper in the first half) and Bradlee Van Pelt throwing for 229 and a touchdown. Van Pelt was 17-27 with a TD and no interceptions, and the Rams fumbled just once. New Rams placekicker Jeff Babcock chipped in with five field goals, including two late in the fourth quarter that provided the margin of victory.

The game was tied at 29-29 with 8:16 to play, when, after a high snap and a clipping penalty, the Rams were faced with a first and 32 at their own four yard. Three short pass plays resulted in a first down, and they eventually got close enough for Babcock to hit from 46 yards out to give CSU a 32-29 lead with 4:07 to play. Three plays later, Rams cornerback Dexter Wynn intercepted a pass from Virginia QB Matt Schaub, and returned it to the five yard line, setting up Babcock's fifth field goal, which gave the Rams a six-point edge.

With 2:20 left, and 82 yards to go, red-shirt freshman QB Marques Hagans nearly brought the Cavs back to victory. His scrambling and short passes, aided by the running of freshman Wali Lundy, set Virginia up with a first and goal. On third down, Haggans scrambled, but was hit as he strained for the goal line. He fumbled, and the Rams recovered at the one yard line with :10 to play. One snap later, the Rams were 1-0 and thinking about the Colorado Buffaloes on August 31st


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