Special Teams Not So as Rams Fall to Fresno State

After walking a tightrope for most of the first month and a half of the 2002 season, the 22nd-ranked Colorado State Rams ran out of fantastic finishes in their first-ever Friday night regular season game, falling on the road 32-30 to Fresno State. After Cecil Sapp's three-yard touchdown run on fourth and goal with 50 seconds left brought the Rams within two, quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt's two-point conversion pass was knocked away, sealing the Bulldogs third straight win over CSU.

The culprit was the usually stalwart CSU special teams, who yielded a punt return for a score, had a field goal blocked, had a snap sail over the head of punter Joey Huber for a safety, got a poor night from Huber, a Ray Guy Award candidate, and had star return man Dexter Wynn held in check most of the night.

In addition, the Rams, now 4-2 on the season and heading into Mountain West Conference play next Saturday at home against Wyoming, played most of the game without standout Tight End Joel Dressen. They also got limited duty from star runner Sapp, who was nursing a sore leg but still managed to rush for 94 yards. Van Pelt, who played all but one series in the game, rushed for 125 yards, including a 79-yard scoring jaunt in the second quarter. He also passed for 214 yards and two scores, including a 70-yard toss to freshman David Anderson.

The Bulldogs built a 29-14 halftime lead behind freshman quarterback Paul Pinegar, who passed for 184 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown to Alec Greco. That score followed an interception by Cameron Worrell deep in Rams territory, the only pass of the night thrown by red-shirt freshman back-up QB Justin Holland.

Fresno State scored 12 points in the final minute of the first half, starting with Rodney Davis' 1-yard TD run. In the waning minutes of the first half, a long snap sailed over the head of Huber, who batted it out of the end zone for a safety. The Bulldogs then took the free kick 48 yards to set up Asen Asparuhov's 28-yard field goal as time expired.

With another difficult night against the fired-up Bulldogs, Colorado State's Sonny Lubick was denied his 100th victory as a head coach. The Rams had difficulty moving the ball except on a handful of big plays.

Fresno State managed just three points in the second half, but they won with the dominance in special teams. Adam Jennings returned a first quarter punt 59 yards for a score, the Bulldogs got two key points on the safety on the CSU punt attempt, and Rodney Michael blocked a field goal attempt with 7:39 left to play. In addition, Asparuhov made field goals from 39, 28 and 38 yards. He missed from 52 yards.

Colorado State trailed by 15 points midway through the third quarter, but Jeff Babcock's 31-yard field goal cut the lead to 32-24 with 4:32 left in the game. After the Rams stopped Fresno State and Wynn returned the ensuing punt to the Bulldogs 27, Van Pelt ran and passed Colorado State to its final touchdown, but he couldn't get the conversion.

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