Sunday, September 14, 2014

Offense shines in Rams' home-opening victory

Garrett Grayson passed for 425 yards and four touchdowns as the Colorado State Rams defeated UC Davis, 49-21, in the team's home opener Saturday afternoon at Hughes Stadium.

Overall, CSU (2-1, 0-1 MW) passed for a school-record 452 yards and racked up 676 yards of total offense, second-most in program history (Tennessee Chattanooga, 1996).

"I was really excited about that performance," Head Coach Jim McElwain said. "We went into the game wanting to get some things done and play a lot of guys. We needed to get last week's taste out of our mouths, and I thought we put forth a good effort."

Grayson's four passing touchdowns are tied for the third-most in CSU history. Over the past two games, he has thrown for 859 yards, the most-ever by a CSU passer in consecutive games. Additionally, the senior eclipsed the 6,000 career yard mark on Saturday, becoming the seventh passer in CSU history to reach that milestone.

"It was huge for us to come out and execute the way we did," Grayson said. "I feel like the receivers and I were pretty much on point with everything we were doing. Timing was there, so that's huge going into a bye week."

Four different players found the end zone, with the first strike coming just more than 3 minutes into the contest when Grayson found Charles Lovett for a 45-yard reception. Following the catch, Lovett juked a UC Davis (1-2) defender, allowing him to coast into the end zone for the final 25 yards.

The Rams scored twice more in the first quarter, a 15-yard pass to Rashard Higgins and a 20-yarder to Steven Walker. CSU entered halftime with a 28-7 lead after Higgins scored his second touchdown of the day, a 52-yard pass and catch with 4:16 remaining in the half.

"I know he threw for a bunch, but here's the good thing: We finally hit some deep balls," McElwain said. "I think the explosive guys played explosive, and that's a good thing. When we get the ball in their hands with them moving, they've got a chance to finish."

While the receivers shined in the first half, the running game stepped up in the second, rushing for 135 of its 224 yards on the ground.

The Rams took a four-touchdown lead on the first play of the fourth quarter when Jasen Oden Jr. ran in from one yard out. It was his first career rushing touchdown. He didn't wait long to score his second, breaking free from midfield to score with 5:10 remaining in the game.

Treyous Jarrells - who also scored a touchdown - was CSU's leading rusher, running for 84 yards on seven carries, followed by Oden (68) and Dee Hart (42).

"All three of us push each other in practice," Oden said. "When I scored that touchdown, the first person I celebrated with was Dee."

Holding a large lead midway through the fourth, McElwain was able to sub in several reserves.

Freshman Bryce Peters recorded his first career carry, a 16-yard run in the fourth quarter with freshman Nick Stevens under center. Stevens - seeing his first collegiate action - led CSU to its final touchdown, a five-play 81-yard drive. He finished with 27 yards on 3-for-3 passing.

Higgins hauled in 147 receiving yards while Elroy Masters Jr. totaled 112, including a 69-yarder that brought the Rams to the 2-yard line midway through the fourth.

"We've done a good job recruiting that position," McElwain said of the young receivers. "We've got some good size, and now we sprinkle in a little more speed, and I think the future is bright at that spot. The good part is we can continually grow and get better."

On defense, Nu'uvali Fa'apito had a team-most and career-best eight tackler. On special teams, Trent Matthews blocked a UC Davis field-goal try in the second quarter. It was the second week in a row the Rams blocked a kick, after defensive end Joe Kawulok blocked a point-after attempt at Boise State on Sept. 6.

The Rams have now won eight of their past 10 home openers. They will have a bye week before facing Boston College on Sept. 27.

"We're going to enjoy this win," Jarrells said. "But then we've got to get ready for Boston College the following week."

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