The Cardinals started the rally with 4:45 left, when Joshua Tinch grabbed a 22-yard touchdown pass from Ragone that had bounced off two Ram defenders, but the Cardinals failed on the 2-point conversion. Josh Minkins recovered the onside kick, leading to a 1-yard touchdown run by Henry Miller, but the Cardinals again missed the 2-point try.
Colorado State appeared to have the game under control after recovering the next onside kick, but Cecil Sapp fumbled and Montavious Stanley returned it 56 yards to Colorado State's 2-yard line.
Miller punched it in two plays later for a 2-yard touchdown, and Nate Smith's extra point made it 36-33 with 3:04 left.
Colorado State's Joey Cuppari recovered the next onside kick, but the Rams were forced to punt after three plays. The Cardinals got the ball at the 2 with 2:20 left, but failed on a fourth-and-15 from their own 26 to end it.
Ragone was 22-for-41 for 294 yards and a touchdown, but had several passes bounce to open receivers and missed on four straight passes to end the game. Miller finished with three touchdowns.
Colorado State had a 284-110 advantage in total yards in the first half, but led just 20-14 because of three turnovers. Sapp, who rushed for 130 yards and three touchdowns, capped Colorado State's first drive with a 1-yard touchdown run up the middle, but fumbled just before he crossed the goal line on the next drive.
Sapp's fumble, recovered by Tyrone Saterfield at the 2, was his first in nearly two years -- a span of 129 carries.
Curry Burns intercepted Bradlee Van Pelt on Colorado State's next play after Minkins knocked the ball loose from Chris Pittman, and Miller scored four plays later on a 1-yard dive.
Van Pelt was intercepted again on the next drive, this time by defensive tackle Dewayne White for a 55-yard touchdown.
Back-up quarterback Justin Holland, who saw his first meaningful action of the season, replaced Van Pelt on the next series and moved the Rams quickly for a 12-yard touchdown run by Sapp. The senior had 83 yards on 17 carries in the first half.
Colorado State's Dexter Wynn broke a punt return up the middle for a 66-yard touchdown early in the third, then Sapp dove over the top for a 1-yard touchdown late in the quarter to put the Rams up 33-14. Wynn became the first Colorado State player since Jake Green in 1970 to return a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown in his career.
The Rams Jeff Babcock hit two field goals in the final 3:30, the second coming after Louisville's T.J Patterson gave up on an incomplete backward pass, and Wallace Thomas recovered it at Louisville's 27.
CSU improved to 9-1 in home openers under coach Sonny Lubick.