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Sports / Recreation

Rams' 18-point rally in final 2:52 secures NM bowl win

December 22, 2013

Amazing. Unbelievable. Remarkable. Pick a superlative, and then multiply by 100. That's the only way to describe CSU's 48-45 win over Washington State in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.

The Rams – none of whom had ever played in a bowl game – looked hopelessly out of their game in Albuquerque, trailing the Cougars 45-30 midway in the fourth quarter. A miraculous rally – fueled by two fumble recoveries and another memorable game from sophomore running back Kapri Bibbs – gave the Rams their improbable victory.

“I'm still kind of at a loss for words for exactly how that whole thing ended up,” senior center Weston Richburg said. “Two minutes left, we're down by 15 points. Now we won the game. Yeah, it must have been destiny. That's the most unbelievable game I've ever been a part of.”

Rams play until the the end

Coach Jim McElwain, who led the Rams to an 8-6 record and their first bowl game in five years in just his second season, praised the Rams for refusing to give up.

“Just unbelievable,” second-year Rams coach Jim McElwain said. “You don't write scripts like this. You know what I'm getting at? I can't tell you how proud I am of our guys, really our seniors.”

Shaq steals the show

No senior played bigger or better than linebacker Shaq Barrett, the game's defensive MVP who forced and recovered a fumble with 1:51 remaining when the Rams’ hopes appeared to be all but dashed. That play – which came one snap after another Barrett fumble recovery was overturned by video replay – gave the Rams the chance they needed to tie the game.

Bibbs, who leads the nation with 31 touchdowns, ran in from the 1-yard line with 33 seconds remaining to pull CSU within 45-43. Then came one of the more memorable plays in CSU history.

'Statue of Liberty'

Needing a two-point conversion to tie, quarterback Garrett Grayson faked a quick pass before hiding the ball behind his back. Running back Donnell Alexander took the ball and headed for the end zone, diving in for two points – perfectly executing a classic football play, the Statue of Liberty. Alexander originally was ruled out of bounds but replays confirmed he had crossed the goal line.

“We knew (Alexander) was in.” Grayson said. “I was standing pretty close to right behind him when he was going. I saw the angle. I was pretty mad (officials) didn't call him in at first. We got it. That's all that matters.”

Roberts comes through

At that point the game seemed destined for overtime, but the Rams weren’t about to let that happen. Freshman Jake Schlager recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, and with no time on the clock, Jared Roberts kicked a 41-yard field goal to give CSU an unlikely win over the favored Cougars.

Fans join the party

Thousands of CSU fans attended the game, and many of them rushed the field following Roberts’ kick, setting off a wild celebration of one of the more improbable victories in CSU’s history.

“It was an awesome experience, “Grayson said “We wanted to send these seniors out the right way, let them get that experience. That was something coming into the season I talked to my dad about. I wanted to send the seniors out the right way, get them to a bowl game. I'm happy to be part of it. But, yeah, as far as the experience goes, it was something special and something I'll cherish forever.”