David Zalubowski/Associated Press
David Zalubowski/Associated Press
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Colorado State had experienced a season of slow starts and eventual losses, so the team decided to take matters into its own hands and have a better start Saturday.
“We determine how we are going to play, what kind of effort we are going to play with and with what kind of emotion,” said Colorado State coach Jim McElwain. “I thought our guys came out and had a little juice.”
Shaquil Barrett and Shaq Bell returned turnovers for touchdowns as the Rams beat mistake-prone UNLV 33-11 on Saturday night.
Barrett ran back an interception, and Bell brought back a fumble for a score, two of the four mistakes forced by Colorado State (3-7, 2-4 Mountain West). Donnell Alexander ran for a career-high 139 yards, his second consecutive 100-yard game, and two touchdowns.
“The defense set the tempo,” Alexander said. “We knew we had to match it.”
The Rams had lost seven of eight before Saturday’s game.
Tim Cornett ran for 102 yards on 20 carries for UNLV (2-9, 2-4). Cornett became the first Rebel to have eight 100-yard games in a season since Icky Woods did it in 1987. Nick Sherry was 12 of 30 passing for 139 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
“I was stunned, aggravated, and I have other words in my vocabulary that can’t be printed,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said of his take of the Rebels’ slow start.
“You spot anybody three touchdowns and see what happens,” Hauck said. “Alabama was down three touchdowns early on (in its game Saturday) and couldn’t overcome, and we’re certainly not Alabama.”
The Rebels haven’t won at Hughes Stadium since Nov. 20, 2002, and extended their road losing streak to 21 games.
“We put the ball on the ground and we threw it to them,” Hauck said. You can’t gift-wrap games against a conference opponent.”
Colorado State built a 24-0 lead at the half, forcing four turnovers. They easily could have scored more, but Smith was picked off by Tani Maka inside the UNLV 5 on CSU’s second possession. Two plays later, Barrett made a one-handed interception and ran untouched 49 yards for a touchdown.
Max Morgan then caught Sherry’s pass off a deflection to set the Rams up at the UNLV 40, but CSU ultimately had to punt from the Rebels 39.
On the first play of the second quarter, Calvin Tonga stripped the ball from Bradley Randle. Bell scooped up the ball and returned it 30 yards for a score.
“I saw Tonga hit (Sherry), saw the ball and went and grabbed it and ran it in for the touchdown,” Bell said.
Later, Tonga jarred the ball out of Sherry’s hands, and Conner Roggy fell on the ball at the UNLV 14. Alexander turned the mistake into a 10-yard touchdown run off right tackle with 8 minutes left in the half.
Jared Roberts tacked on a career-long 49-yard field goal 10 seconds before halftime.
UNLV amassed 125 yards of offense, 86 of them by Tim Cornett, in the half. The Rebels got as close as the Colorado State 29 but turned the ball over on downs when they failed to convert a fourth-and-11 with 3:28 left in the second quarter.
Roberts made it 27-0 with a 32-yard field goal with 4:47 left in the third quarter.
Colorado State lost its shutout bid when Eric Tuiloma-Va’a blocked a punt late in the third quarter to set the Rebels up at the Colorado State 26. Sherry found Max Johnson on a 1-yard touchdown toss, then completed a pass to Anthony Williams on the two-point conversion with 13:09 left in the fourth.
The Rams closed their scoring with Alexander’s 14-yard touchdown run. Nolan Kohorst had a 33-yard field goal for UNLV with 4:06 left.