The battle for the top of the Rocky Mountain Conference may have started and proceeded as expected, but it ended in surprising fashion as Colorado State shocked Air Force 57-27 on Saturday in Fort Collins, CO.
The fact that CSU won wasn't the surprise, but instead it was the fact that the Rams blew the Zoomies apart in the final 20 minutes despite being shorthanded. The teams traded tries back and forth and entered the break tied 17-17. That was the expected part.
In the second half, Air Force took the lead on a penalty and then worked nicely and quickly through the phases for a try and a 27-17 lead.
Cards All Day
The game was rife with yellow cards, and most of the tries came when the scoring team was up a player. But as the second half started to wear on, CSU's vaunted fitness regimen started to show.
Joe Rusert-Cudy and Jacob Russell were hitting the rucks, and some nifty offloading set freshman flanker Daniel Trump free for a try. After a crazy sequence in which both teams forced turnovers in their own 22, ran almost the length of the field, and then botched the finish, Colorado State started to take over.
The Rams did this despite losing Jaron Beerline to two yellow cards (and therefore a red), and Ethan Smith to a red card, as well.
Every break from Colorado State resulted in multiple support runners there to take the offloads. Even when the Rams went down to a red card, they kept running and certainly looked the fitter and the fresher team in the last quarter. Russell was immense, scoring the first try of the day and getting involved later, too.
Beerline, Gabriel Zarkovacki, Ethan Smith, Max Whelan, and Joseph Yallop, the last three off the bench, all got involved in finishing or creating tries as CSU blew Air Force away. The final CSU try was scored with the Rams down two players on red cards.
Adjusting And Not Adjusting
"We were not adapting to the referee as far as the cards go, but once we lost the players we did, we came together," Russell said. "We showed the integrity of our tea through all the penalties. Our team is great at diagnosing errors and fixing them, and it really showed today."
With this result, Colorado State has all but sewn up the Rocky Mountain Conference. The standings below include BYU and Utah Valley, who are affiliate members and aren't eligible to win the conference. CSU is 4-0 and just has New Mexico left to complete the clean sweep.
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