CSU Rams rally to take down Middle Tennessee State

So much for a Rocky Mountain Showdown hangover.

Down seven points at halftime, Colorado State scored three consecutive touchdowns between the third and fourth quarters, then got the last-minute stop they couldn’t a week earlier to beat Middle Tennessee State, 31-23, on Saturday night in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Nuer Gatkuoth strip-sacked MTSU quarterback Nicholas Vattiato on the game’s final play at the CSU 32-yard line, handing the Rams their first win of the season and sixth straight immediately after a loss to CU.

“I think it’s just a testament to the brotherhood we’ve built,” CSU quarterback Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi said postgame on the ESPN+ broadcast. “I don’t know a closer group of guys in the country. … We all love each other and that translates to the field.”

Fowler-Nicolosi found receiver Tory Horton for a pair of touchdown passes in the second half, the last of which put the Rams up 24-17 with 11:34 remaining. Not long after, CSU forced a MTSU fumble at its own 5-yard line that Mohamed Kamara scooped up and returned for a touchdown and eventual 31-17 lead.

Middle Tennessee got one back with Vattiato hooking up with Elijah Metcalf for a 10-yard touchdown pass with 4:45 to go, but a blocked extra point kept the deficit at eight. The Blue Raiders got the ball back at its 14-yard line with 2:39 to go, setting up a situation that was eerily familiar to last week’s Rocky Mountain Showdown, which the Rams eventually lost in double overtime.

Except this time around, the Rams came up with the stop after MTSU drove to the CSU 32 — batting one pass down in the end zone, then getting Gatkuoth’s strip sack on the final snap.

“I’m just really proud of the resiliency of our team,” CSU coach Jay Norvell said on the ESPN+ broadcast. “We got a bunch of kids that were sick this week after last week and they could hardly get through the game. …

“We’ve been working really hard to try to play together, and feeding off each other, offense and defense, and we certainly did that in the second half when we were behind. I’m just really proud of our kids, and the coaches, of how hard they fought.”

Fowler-Nicolosi completed 29 of 42 passes for 36 yards. Tight end Dallin Holker had 11 receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown for Colorado State (1-2). Horton finished with 10 catches for 99 yards and two scores..

Vattiato was 30-of-41 passing for 274 yards and three touchdowns and added 47 yards on the ground and a touchdown run from short yardage for Middle Tennessee (1-2). Holden Willis had nine catches for 118 yards, Metcalf finished with 11 for 95, and each had a touchdown reception.

“We have an unbelievable amount of resiliency,” Fowler-Nicolosi said. “Our toughness is unmatched. It’s just a testament to my boys. All of our starting receivers had something this week and they still came out and balled.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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