FORT COLLINS — Saturday night in Murfreesboro, Tenn., the Colorado State football team got the finish that eluded it a week earlier in Boulder. Now the Rams hope to build on their first win of the season.

In game full of big plays and pivotal moments against Middle Tennessee, the Rams found themselves in a familiar position at the end of the game. CSU was ahead by eight points with just over two minutes left and had to punt the ball to the Blue Raiders, giving them the same opportunity it gave Colorado a week earlier.

But this time the Rams held on, not allowing the Blue Raiders to get the tying touchdown and two-point conversion the way the Buffaloes did the week before.

“We fell short against CU in a very similar situation,” CSU defensive lineman Grady Kelly said. “I think we all knew, we all looked to the left and right and said, ‘That’s not going to happen again in this game. That’s not going to happen again all season.’ If the offense puts us in a situation where we’re up in the last two minutes of the game and we have them pinned inside their own 10, they should never have a shot against us all season.”

After Middle Tennessee scored to cut the CSU lead to 31-23 with 6:27 remaining, the Rams used as much of the clock as they could, getting it down to just over two and a half minutes before punting to the Blue Raiders.

The Blue Raiders drove to the CSU 32-yard line before the Rams called a timeout. With seven seconds remaining, Middle Tennessee lofted a Hail Mary to the end zone where it was batted away by Henry Blackburn.

What seemed to be the final play of the game, wasn’t. There was still a second left. Anticipating another Hail Mary, the ESPN+ broadcast initially panned to the end zone, then backtracked when the Rams sacked the quarterback and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Chase Wilson to secure the eight-point victory.

After the first Hail Mary, the Rams were surprised to see that one second left on the clock and that Middle Tennessee had an opportunity for one more play.

“I looked up and I started celebrating after we batted the ball down and I saw one second on the clock,” Kelly said. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, We’ve got to go back out.’ We’ve got dudes on defense. We’ve got dudes to go rush the passer. In a situation like that where we’re not rushing very many people, drop back in prevent, and we’ve got dudes that are still going and getting strip sacks. It was surprising to see one second on the clock, but that’s just another opportunity for us to go and showcase our defensive ability.”

The final play capped a second-half comeback for the Rams, who improved to 1-2 with the win. Two 7-yard touchdown passes from Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi to Tory Horton gave CSU the lead and then a scoop-and-score from Mo Kamara ended up being the deciding touchdown.

In a contest that also featured a fake punt touchdown on a pass from backup quarterback Giles Pooler to Dallin Holker, the Rams made big plays in every phase of the game.

“I think it was important that we won a hard game, that we had to rely on each other offensively and defensively and special teams,” CSU head coach Jay Norvell said. “There were critical big plays in all three phases that were needed to win that game. If we don’t get the fake, we don’t win. If we don’t get the turnover at the end, it’s tough for us to win. I thought the drives in the third quarter were really critical and important.”

Now the Rams have an opportunity to build on the victory and do something a CSU team hasn’t done since 2017 — be 2-2 after four games — and something they haven’t done since 2014: go into conference play coming off back-to-back victories.

To accomplish both of those going into their Mountain West opener at Utah State on Oct. 7, would be huge, Kelly said.

“I think it’s momentum,” Kelly said. “I think it’s something that we haven’t done since I’ve been here and coach Norvell told us that we haven’t been 2-2 going into conference play in about five years and I think it will be huge momentum going into conference play, a good confidence boost, just a good gauge of where we’re at as a team. When we get this win this weekend, it will be huge momentum going into conference play.”

First the Rams have to get past a Utah Tech team that is 1-3 this season, The first-ever meeting between the teams will kick off at 5 p.m. Saturday at Canvas Stadium.

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