LAFAYETTE, Colo. – Colorado State and Utah State each overcame second-half deficits to win their first West Conference matches of the season. The Rams came back from 19 points down to get the best of Colorado, while the Aggies outlasted Wyoming in a back-and-forth affair in Laramie, Wyo.
A win over Utah had Colorado State back in the Top 20 and riding high heading into its rivalry match, but the Buffaloes bombarded the Rams with four first-half tries from Caleb Marks, Ben Hirschman, Jack Gitre and Jack Tuttle to produce a 26-7 halftime lead.
“In the first half we struggled with our defensive shape and fell off too many tackles, and made a few too many mental errors,” explained Colorado State Coach Rod Hartley. “The boys had their heads down a little bit and struggled to put pressure or create turnovers on defense against a really good Colorado side.”
The Rams coaching staff didn’t need to say much at halftime. Instead, the student leadership group on the team addressed the first-half issues and got the players ready to play a better second 40 minutes of rugby.
The comeback began with a try by Oliver Jenkins, who led Colorado State’s defensive efforts, as well. Then it was Liam Wynne’s turn to take the team upon his shoulders. The inside center would score three of the Rams’ next four tries to pull his team ahead, 40-26, after Joel Conzelmann’s fifth conversion.
“I think Liam recognized that we needed someone to step up and demand from the other players to start playing our game, and that’s what he did,” Hartley said of the club president.
Colorado answered with a try through the hands of forward reserve Kyle Gasser, but the 40-33 scoreline would be as close as the Buffs would get.
Utah State showed it belonged in the West Conference by simply hanging with No. 9 Air Force last week and earned a hard-fought victory over Wyoming on the road over the weekend.
The Aggies took awhile to loosen up after a long bus ride and fell behind, 8-0, following a penalty kick from Wyoming’s Connor Rezzonico and a Joe Adams try.
“Wyoming is a good team,” said Utah State Head Coach Zac Root. “I was impressed with their forwards – hard hitting and very solid on the play at the rucks.”
Utah State, however, would score the final 12 points of the opening half with tries being recorded by eight man and captain Marty Johnson and inside center Conner Peterson.
The Aggies, led by the strong play of scrum half Karson Wilson, continued to put pressure on Wyoming during the opening phases of the second half and were rewarded by a Konisi Hosea try to increase their lead to 17-8.
The Cowboys counterpunched through their midfield when center Lance Elliot scored consecutive tries to regain the lead for his side, 20-17, with just 15 minutes left to play.
Starved for its first West win, Utah State refused to go quietly and went ahead on Elijah Toa’s 67th-minute try and added one more score for good measure on the game’s last play when Jeff Clark dotted down to seal the Aggies’ 27-20 victory.
“It was a tough match and really could have gone either way,” Root said. “I was very impressed my guys dug deep and kept playing until the final whistle. I know they wanted it and I know that I can count on all of them to finish.”
Wyoming is off this weekend while Utah State will head back on the road to face Colorado. The other West match scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 8, is a fixture between two D1A Top 20 teams when Air Force hosts Colorado State.