RENO, Nev. — A great campaign.
Naturally, it was Tory Horton who made the big plays to give the Colorado State football team a chance to win.
CSU’s offense was rotten throughout the game, but in a tied game with 2 minutes remaining, Horton turned a short pass into a 26-yard gain. He then caught a 6-yard pass to give Michael Boyle the opportunity for a long, game-winning field goal.
Boyle was hit on his first down from 48 yards, which went wide. The penalty caused CSU to go up 5 yards for a 43-yard attempt.
Money. Her kick went up into the air, seeming to hang in the air forever. Boyle knew he was on target, but he needed to make sure he had the distance before running off to celebrate.
“That ball was in the air for an eternity,” Boyle said. “I watched it go through the post and everything went blank. Pure emotion.”
Boyle got it right and CSU won 17-14 over Nevada, snapping a 10-game losing streak by the Rams.
Here are three thoughts on the game.
Great defensive plays, offensive struggles
The defense saw the CSU offense score 14 points with defensive touchdowns and the offense still couldn’t do anything.
CSU scored two defensive touchdowns in the first quarter. A 21-yard pick-6 by Ayden Hector and then a 50-yard fumble by Mukendi Wa-Kalonji gave CSU a 14-0 lead.
The offense couldn’t build on that.
True freshman Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi, making his first career start with an injured Clay Millen, looked nervous all night. He rarely stepped foot to throw and never threatened the Nevada secondary.
Avery Morrow ran the ball well, but the complete imbalance meant that CSU never successfully moved the ball. The only real threat to score ended with Morrow’s fumble in the red zone.
But the final push will at least make for a happy flight home. Fowler-Nicolosi went 11-for-22 for 78 yards and two interceptions.
CSU finished with 255 yards of offense after having just 72 in the first half. Morrow had 168 rushing yards.
A weird and ugly game, but a win for CSU to move to 1-4 overall and 1-0 in Mountain West. Nevada is now 2-4 (0-2 MW).
CSU has bugs to clean up
The Rams finished with 14 penalties for 136 yards, many of which gave Nevada first downs.
Arguably the biggest mistake came in the third quarter with CSU leading 14-7. The Rams finally put together a decent series with Morrow performing well.
Until he fumbled at the Nevada 20-yard line. Any scoring there could have put the game in CSU’s hands with how much the Nevada offense struggled.
Instead, he breathed new life into the wolf pack.
As bad as CSU’s offense is, the margin for error is slim. Even with two defensive TDs for the Rams, there was still little wiggle room.
It will have to be cleaned up for CSU to add more wins.
Splintered and angry atmosphere
The fight started long before kick-off.
The warm-ups brought the first dose of drama in Norvell’s return to Mackay Stadium.
Two police officers flanked the Colorado State football coach as he took the field for the first time. He quickly found Nevada coach Ken Wilson, who in not-so-subtle terms accused Norvell of underhanded acts in his departure to CSU.
The conversation near midfield was certainly not a friendly exchange of banter and set the tone for a game of chips.
It was far from sold out at the 27,000-seat Mackay Stadium, but those there were excited. The student section was noisy and frequent users of a middle finger gesture to CSU.
Each team played on the edge of emotion, and often above it. Especially in the first quarter, it seemed like both teams were making mistakes, in part because emotions took precedence over thoughts.
Every play was pushed past the whistles and every big play was celebrated with added fervor. Both of CSU’s defensive scores in the first quarter were celebrating with energy right in front of that hostile student section.
This was not just another game.
“This was personal. All the conversations from the head coach to the players. It was like, ‘Brother, we’re trying to play football. Everybody’s talking, they’re texting, they’re doing this talk,'” Morrow said. “All the fans, it was crazy how many (things) they were saying. They were just trying to put themselves in our hands just for the simple fact that we came from Nevada.”
This likely won’t develop into a long-term rivalry. This was a bad blood affair of a game, but it sure was that.
Two poor teams, but very intriguing.
Follow sports reporter Kevin Lytle on Twitter and Instagram @Kevin_Lytle.