FORT COLLINS — This wasn’t Nevada, a team to be considered middle of the pack — at best — in the Western Athletic Conference. No, Thursday night’s contest was against Air Force, an in-state and Mountain West Conference rival to open the Rams’ conference run.
And Kyle Bell was still fantastic.
For that matter, so was the Colorado State offense — mainly in the second half — in posting a 41-23 win in front of 26,711 fans at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium.
But it’s Bell who has made everything so much better for the Rams in the last two weeks. Coming off a 33-carry, 183-yard performance in a
win over Nevada, Bell delivered an even more impressive 32-carry, 197-yard effort, complete with three touchdowns.
“What can you say about Kyle Bell?” CSU head coach Sonny Lubick said. “He was better today than he was last week. It’s just the confidence he got.”
With Bell piling up the yardage in the second half (the sophomore had 51 at intermission), the passing game opened up as well, and quarterback Justin Holland seemed to have his choice of targets in picking apart the Falcons’ secondary.
Colorado State (2-2 overall, 1-0 MWC) finished with 551 yards of total offense, with Holland throwing for 318 yards and three scores.
“Kyle Bell is a stud. Luke Roberts is a stud, and everybody knows about David Anderson,” CSU offensive coordinator Dan Hammerschmidt said. “The offensive line was making enough holes. We got an old, (Kevin) McDougal-type performance. ... We didn’t block some of those guys, and (Kyle) ran through some safeties that are pretty good tacklers. I love watching him.”
After Air Force (2-3, 1-3) struck quick to open the second half — three plays and 80 yards in just 52 seconds — on a Chad Smith 30-yard run, the Rams came back with a flurry.
Roberts keyed the next drive with a diving, 44-yard catch that set up Holland’s touchdown pass to Anderson on the next play, good for 19 yards.
“Justin was pretty darned good tonight,” Lubick said. “He put the ball where it had to be. We have to play that well or better the rest of the way out.”
Two drives later, the Rams took a 27-16 lead with another touchdown catch by Anderson, then Bell scored on a 30-yard run the ensuing drive, making it 34-16.
Bell closed the scoring with a 9-yard run in the fourth.
“I’ll do it for the rest of the season,” Bell said of his 30-carry nights. “I had a lot of confidence. I came in with the same attitude I had the first two games, but it’s knowing you can do those things at this level. It’s not just me. It’s a lot of hard work put in by a lot of people.”
Both offenses had trouble getting out of their own way in the first half, each turning the ball over twice.
Air Force’s gifts came in their first three offensive plays, the second leading to a 1-yard touchdown run by Bell. CSU failed to cash in on the first fumble when Kevin Mark missed a 46-yard attempt, his third miss in four tries on the season.
Colorado State turned the ball over on its next two drives — a fumble by George Hill and an interception from Holland when Dustin Osborn had the ball go through his hands to Chris Sutton. Both of those turnovers led to Air Force field goals, from 37 and 25 yards by Scott Eberle. He added another with 1:24 on the clock from 30 yards to give the Falcons a 9-7 lead.
But CSU answered with an 88-yard drive in just 58 seconds, capped by Holland’s 27-yard connection with Roberts, his first career scoring grab.