BOULDER, Colo. – Colorado State flipped the script on Air Force with a blowout win of its own after being run out of the Academy by 33 points back in September. Also, a new look Colorado team easily handled New Mexico on the road.
Heading into the Saturday-night showdown at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo., both the Rams and Zoomies were ranked in the top 15 and a tight battle was anticipated. The early goings of the contest had the looks of a close encounter as Colorado State held Air Force scoreless in the first 40 minutes, while only mustering a penalty and a Ben Pinkelman try.
Air Force came out the aggressor in the second half and earned a try from winger Will Maschmeyer. However, the unconverted try would be the only points the Zoomies recorded.
Pinkelman, an AIG Men’s Collegiate All-American, continued to lead the way for the Rams and added his second and third tries by the 55th minute to increase Colorado State’s lead to 20-5. Before all was said and done, number eight Evan Giest and wing Jack Connor got themselves onto the stat sheet with tries for a 34-5 score at the final whistle.
There is no doubt No. 9 Colorado State has a talented roster in its stable, but Pinkelman is obviously the team’s lead horse.
“He knows so much about the game,” said center Luke Engelhaupt. “He’s constantly teaching us and breaks down the game to pull us up to where he is at.”
Now both 4-1 and with a head-to-head record of 1-1, Colorado State and Air Force are neck and neck in the race to win the West and receive a coveted home game in the opening round of the D1A Playoffs. Since the two squads split their head-to-head meetings, the race will come down to point differential, which Air Force currently leads by 41 points.
Given the ground Colorado State needs to make up to win the West, they are training for their final three opponents, albeit weaker teams, with a determined ferocity.
“We’re preparing for these games the same way we prepared for Arizona and Air Force,” Engelhaupt said.
The University of Colorado, finally healthy after several starters missed the team’s first four matches, pounded New Mexico, 31-5.
The Buffaloes used an aggressive style of play to build a 31-0 lead 55 minutes in, but left plenty of points on the pitch in the final 25 minutes.
“We lost our team-play mentality and started to play as individuals in the second half, which hurt us,” said outside center Jake Shomer.
The victory could be a sign of things to come for Colorado, as a handful of key pieces are back in kit and playing well. The group incudes number eight Adam Page, who returned stateside after spending the better part of a year crafting his game in Ireland. Skilled prop Blake Rogers is back in form and fly half Jay Brown’s broken hand has healed.
The Buffs have a busy week ahead as they host Wyoming Wednesday before their rivalry game against Colorado State Saturday, March 14.
“We’ve had a long break since our last match, so it was nice to get the rust off,” Shomer said. “Hopefully we can build off this and play better against Wyoming.”
No. 11 Air Force will look to get back to its winning ways March 14 on the road against the Cowboys.