The Warriors fail to take advantage of several turnovers, dropping their fifth straight
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Oct 28, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 04:15 a.m. HST, Oct 28, 2012
FORT COLLINS, Colo. » When the Hughes Stadium clock struck "0:00," it was the "pumpkins" who turned into a Cinderella team.
Dressed in throwback pumpkin-colored uniforms, the Colorado State football team overcame numerous mistakes to produce a 42-27 victory over Hawaii on Saturday night.
"They almost forgot to sing the fight song because it's been so darn long since we did," CSU coach Jim McElwain said of the Rams' second victory in seven games and first against a Mountain West opponent this year. "They were excited. They were relieved. They feel the pressure. As many positive things as these guys are doing in the classroom and in the community and together as a team, they feel the heat of not winning. This was big."
The Rams' night to remember was the Warriors' nightmare to forget.
At 4,984 feet above sea level, the Warriors felt the depths of disappointment after squandering several gift-wrapped opportunities. The Warriors' implosive behavior was displayed in the third quarter, when they forced three turnovers and deflected a punt deep in CSU territory only to come away with just two field goals. The Rams then iced it with two interception returns for touchdowns.
"It was really frustrating," UH running back John Lister said. "When they hand you the ball on their porch, you have to take it in."
The Warriors had received a surprising boost from their defense. The Warriors had forced five takeaways in the first six games — four fumbles and an interception — and none in 35 consecutive drives entering Saturday night's game.
But the Warriors opened the scoring when safety Marrell Jackson forced a fumble and linebacker Jerrol Garcia-Williams scooped the football and ran 12 yards for a touchdown.
The Warriors trailed 28-21 at the intermission when their defense seized control.
Defensive end Tavita Woodard intercepted a pass into the flats at the start of the second half. UH's ensuing drive stalled, and then kicker Tyler Hadden was wide left on a 46-yard field-goal attempt.
Two plays later, Jackson struck CSU running back Chris Nwoke, forcing a fumble that defensive end Paipai Falemalu recovered.
The Warriors drove to the 2, but Lister's rush gained 1 yard. After a timeout, UH quarterback Sean Schroeder threw to Billy Ray Stutzmann on a slant pattern, but defensive back Shaq Bell broke up the fourth-down pass.
"We hadn't moved an inch running the football," Chow said. "I thought we'd take advantage of the young corners."
Schroeder said: "I thought we had a good look for it. In hindsight, we probably should have worked the other side to (receiver Scott Harding). I'm the triggerman behind that. I make that decision. It probably wasn't the right decision."
It took only three plays for the Warriors to regain possession after linebacker Art Laurel forced a fumble that defensive tackle Siasau Matagiese recovered at the 17. But again, the Warriors could not capitalize. Schroeder was sacked on second down, and backup tight end Clark Evans could not secure a high pass in the end zone. Hadden's field goal closed UH to 28-24.
The Warriors, who held their first six opponents to 17 three and outs in 77 possessions, stopped the Rams on three downs. Jackson partially blocked the punt, and UH took over at the CSU 35.
A pass-interference penalty advanced the ball to the 20. On first down, Schroeder lofted a pass to Stutzmann on a go pattern along the left sideline. Stutzmann out-leaped Bell and appeared to make the catch as an official signaled touchdown. After reviewing video replays, the officials reversed the call, saying that the point of the football tickled the ground before Stutzmann had fully secured the catch.
"I thought I had it all the way," Stutzmann said. ‘I don't think (the ball) hit the ground. I thought I had control the whole time. (The referees) thought otherwise."
Chow said: "We don't take advantage. We don't capitalize, and when we did, (the officials) called it back, which I knew they would. That seems to be happening all the time to us. Only to us. We haven't had a reversal all season long. I told the guy in front of me: ‘I bet you a hundred bucks they'll reverse it,' and sure enough they did."
The Warriors ended up settling for another Hadden field goal, this time from 43 yards, and trailed 28-27 instead of taking the lead if the touchdown had been permitted.
"We were going punch for punch with them," Stutzmann said, "and in the end, they pulled away."
The pulled string that unraveled the Warriors came on a Schroeder pass to the left side. DeAndre Elliott intercepted and then ran 76 yards to extend the lead to 35-27.
"I checked the play," said Schroeder, who was 19-for-46 for 200 yards. "It was a bad check."
Chow acknowledged Schroeder had an all-in mind-set.
"I thought Sean got a little greedy," Chow said. ‘He didn't take what they were giving us. He tried to make some big plays."
The Rams ended the suspense when Jasen Oden intercepted another Schroeder pass and scored on the 40-yard return.
"I can't have costly turnovers that go the other way for six (points)," Schroeder said.
Chow, who calls the offensive plays, said he regretted some of his choices.
"There were questionable coaching decisions that I'll kick myself in the butt for," Chow said.
Pressed for specifics, Chow said: "I should have been a little more creative down close to the goal line instead of trying to pound it in there. Things like that. We ran the ball pretty well in the first half, and I thought we could continue to do so, but (the Rams) tightened up."
And so it went.
Despite playing their best defensive game of the year, an uneven first half led the Warriors to chase a 14-point deficit.
And while the Warriors found success with their no-huddle offense, they could not sustain the pace.
"It was a tough night in the red zone," Lister said. "There's really no excuse for it. We have to capitalize on it. That's ‘pay dirt,' as they say. You go down there, you do all of the hard work, you have to get into the end zone. It's something we have to really work on, and take pride in."