Bradlee Van Pelt ran 23 yards for a touchdown with 6:20 left, and Colorado State survived a second-half Colorado rally to beat the Buffaloes 19-14 on Saturday.
"We knew going into the game that this CU team wasn't unbeatable,'' Van Pelt said.
The Rams (2-0) dominated the first half, building a 13-0 lead, before Colorado (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today, No. 7 AP, 0-1) bounced back to take a 14-13 advantage.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Colorado's Jeremy Bloom returned a punt 75 yards for a score. Five minutes later, Chris Brown atoned for three earlier fumbles with a 1-yard scoring run, capping an 81-yard drive and giving the Buffaloes a 14-13 lead with 9:39 remaining. Colorado State countered immediately with a seven-play, 84-yard TD drive.
Van Pelt passed 11 yards to Chris Pittman, 9 yards to Cecil Sapp and 16 yards to Joey Cuppari. With a first down at the Colorado 23, Van Pelt broke off the left side and cut back to the right on a clinching scoring run. Van Pelt threw incomplete on the 2-point conversion try. Van Pelt, who helped engineer Colorado State's 35-29 win over Virginia last week, gave his offensive teammates a pep talk before the final drive.
"I told the guys, `This is nothing new. If anything, this team is weaker than Virginia,''' Van Pelt said. "I just said, `We let them back in the game. We owe it to our defense and our fans to go down there and get the winning drive.'''
Colorado subsequently drove to the CSU 12, where John Donahoe couldn't pull down Craig Ochs' high pass on fourth down at the goal line with 21 seconds left.
"Ultimately, when the game was on the line, CSU got it done and we didn't,'' Colorado coach Gary Barnett said. "They were behind and they put together a great drive. Their quarterback is a great warrior. He played with great heart like he did last week.
"We had a tough day overcoming our first-game jitters. Once again, turnovers just nailed us.'' Rams coach Sonny Lubick said his team showed toughness, especially on defense.
"Defensively, we tried to make them earn every yard they got,'' Lubick said. "We gave away some points with the missed extra point and some field goals. They're a pretty good defense, but we moved the ball in spurts. On that last drive I thought our offensive coordinators did a great job of mixing the run and pass.''
Before 75,531 fans at Invesco Field at Mile High. Colorado State outgained Colorado 195-90 in the first half, crossing midfield on its last six possessions of the half. Sapp scored on runs of 8 and 2 yards.
Jeff Babcock, who made 5-of-5 field goals against Virginia, missed a pair of 37-yard attempts in the half and also hit the left upright on an extra-point try.
The Rams got an early turnover when linebacker Eric Pauly intercepted a pass at the Colorado 33. CSU reached the 20, but Babcock's field-goal try was wide.
Barely a minute later, Dexter Wynn returned a punt 43 yards to the Colorado 39. After Van Pelt passed 28 yards to Eric Hill, Sapp broke multiple tackles on an 8-yard run up the middle.
Midway through the second quarter, Brown fumbled at the Buffaloes' 20. Five plays later, Sapp ran 2 yards for the TD, but Babcock missed the extra point.
Sapp's 16-yard run and Van Pelt's 21-yard pass to Joey Cuppari helped set up another CSU scoring chance late in the half, but Babcock's hurried attempt with time expiring was wide.
Colorado opened up its offense in the third quarter as Ochs completed four straight passes of at least 11 yards before Brown's second fumble. CSU then squandered a scoring chance when Phil Jackson intercepted Van Pelt in the end zone. The Buffs drove to the Rams 3-yard line late in the quarter, but Brown fumbled again. Teammate Donahoe recovered for an apparent first down, but because fourth-down fumbles can't be advanced, the ball was spotted where the fumble occurred at the 4, and CSU took possession.
Brown, who fumbled only once all last season, finished with 93 yards rushing on 22 carries. Sapp had 80 yards rushing, and Van Pelt added 74. Colorado has dropped four straight season openers for the first time since 1938-41.
Colorado State offensive tackle Aaron Green suffered a stress fracture in his left fibula, and defensive back Miles Kochevar tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee and will have surgery within a few days.