Stellar Weather and Pre-Game Festivities Cap Trip for TMJ Sports Writer
~ by Trevor Phipps ~
The Albuquerque weather was as good as you could ask for in December.
And after a half a week’s worth of Bowl Game festivities, the two teams, the Colorado State Rams and the Marshall Thundering Herd were ready to battle each other for the first time ever in the 2017 Gildan New Mexico Bowl.
The two teams both had records of 7-5 and were pretty evenly matched going into the game. However, in a game that some have said was the most exciting game to start the 2017 bowl season, the Marshall Thundering Herd slid past the Rams by a score of 31 to 28.
Due to the game’s proximity to Colorado many thought that there would be a good turnout of Ram fans and there was. A large number of the Ram players are originally from Colorado, including one from Fountain and four from Colorado Springs, representing Palmer, Doherty, and Pine Creek high schools. Earning the right to play in the New Mexico Bowl made the six to eight hour trip for many of the players’ families very feasible. The Rams side of the stadium was almost full whereas the Marshall side was nearly empty. Marshall University is located in West Virginia making it a lot harder for fans to endure the bowl game trip.
Most figured the game would be close due to the fact that CSU has a good offense and the Herd is known for their strong defense. The Rams have had a stellar passing game all season, but have struggled on defense. The Thundering Herd has the opposite situation, featuring a top-notch defense (especially when defending the run) but a rather weak offense this season.
However, the game looked more like a blowout until towards the end of the third quarter when the Rams mounted a valiant comeback, and gave their thousands of fans glimpses of false hope.
During the first part of the game, it was a ride on the “struggle bus” for the Rammies. Their offense seemed a bit off-beat and they were unable to pull off their usual big passing plays. The Herd put some serious heat on Rams quarterback Nick Stevens, sacking him almost half a dozen times and briefly injuring him at one point. Stevens was able to hook up with wide receivers Olabisi Johnson for 119 yards and Detrich Clark for two touchdowns. But he seemed prone to over-throwing the ball and was unable to make those long connections with star WR Michael Gallup which was what had given the team its success throughout the season.
The Rams defense struggled with stopping the rather mediocre Marshall offense. The Rams gave up big plays and faced a 31 to 14 after nearly three quarters. But the Rams’ offense fainlly woke up and scored two touchdowns to make the score a close 28-31. The Rams’ defense stopped the Herd towards the end of the game and were given a chance to score again with very little time left.
However, that chance abruptly ended when the Rams went for it on fourth down. During their last offensive play, QB Stevens was forced to catch his own swatted down pass and make an attempt at running for a first down. The tough Herd defense thwarted Stevens’ rushing efforts and gave him a one yard loss on the play, thus ending the game.
The Rams were hoping they could come up with a comeback win as they had in the last two New Mexico Bowl games they attended. The Rams primary problem on offense the whole game was their inability to score and gain yardage with long passing plays. Ironically, they pretty much lost the game due to the fact that their defense couldn’t stop the long scores from the Herd offense. Marshall was able to score on plays of 76 yards (Chase Litton pass to Tyre Brady), 68 yards (Keion Davis rush) and 90 yards (Tyler King rush). It is virtually impossible to win a game when any team constantly allows those big scoring plays.
Despite being drastically outnumbered by fan support, the Thundering Herd Coach Doc Holliday and Linebacker Chase Hancock said in a pre-game press conference that the team did not think they were coming into the game as underdogs. The team proved their point when they held onto their lead and extended their bowl game record to 11-2. Marshall was able to hold off the Rams’ attempt to win their third New Mexico Bowl game with a last minute comeback.
The Thundering Herd was excited that they were able overcome their 3-9 record they had last season and grow their bowl game record under the Holliday’s reign to 5-0.
As for my poor Rammies, I bet they had a long, sad trip back north just as I did. The many fans that took the trip down to the Land of Enchantment including myself were hoping to see the Rams break their three bowl game losing streak and be 3-0 in bowl games in Albuquerque. Oh, well I guess there is always 2018 to look forward to. “This hurts but we’ll regroup and get ready for next year,” Rams Coach Mike Bobo said after the game.
Bobo has been unable to take the Rams to a bowl game during each of his first three seasons. Recently he locked himself into the head coach position until 2020, via a contract extension worth $2 million. Hopefully now he will succeed in winning more than seven games in a season.
However, to start the 2018 season, Bobo and the Rams will lose three of their star players. The Rams star linebacker Evan Colorito, QB Nick Stevens, and WR Michael Gallup are all seniors this year and will be moving on to bigger and better things. The Rams are also currently without an offensive and defensive coordinator to start the 2018 season.
But the Rams do seem rejuvenated and excited now that they have new uniforms and a brand new fancy stadium. Hopefully, this will open the door for the Rams to continue their streak of earning winning seasons and the right to go to bowl games, and more importantly, to now win bowl games.