FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) — Wyoming had been knocked back on its heels and had been outplayed in the third quarter by a team motivated to play for its coach.
But when the game was on the line, the Cowboys delivered.
“You’d like to play four quarters of great football, but it doesn’t happen like that, and you get into predicaments,” coach Dave Christensen said Saturday after his Cowboys had beaten Colorado State 22-19. “Every game we’ve been in a predicament like that, we’ve won the game.”
Brett Smith threw for two touchdowns and fellow freshman Josh Doctson caught three passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns for Wyoming (8-4, 5-2 Mountain West). Smith passed for 191 yards and ran for 90 more.
“Josh has some good balls skills,” said Christensen. “That is a true freshman throwing to a true freshman twice, and the future is bright for those two guys.”
The bowl-eligible Cowboys won the 102nd meeting of the Border War, though they trail the series 54-43-5.
The fate of Colorado State coach Steve Fairchild rests in the hands of newly named athletic director Jack Graham. Fairchild has coached the Rams (3-9, 1-6) to three straight 3-9 finishes.
Graham said he had made no decision about Fairchild, with whom he plans to meet Sunday. The Rams ended the season on an eight-game losing streak.
“We spent a good portion of yesterday together, and we had a great session with each other,” Graham said. “I am not going to paint myself into a corner or have a time line. However long it takes me to get to the right decision, I will take that time.”
Said Fairchild: “I would love to be back, and we’ve got 20 starters coming back. I think we built this the right way, but that’s for another day.”
Fairchild has a year and $750,000 left on his contract. He met with Graham on Friday.
Graham replaced Paul Kowalczyk as AD on Thursday. Like Fairchild, he’s a former quarterback, and he said returning the program to prominence is his priority.
Fairchild said he spoke to Graham about the strong group of underclassmen returning next season.
“We had a good conversation,” said Fairchild. “I think this program is ready to compete, to get working in the offseason and try to put a football team on the field that will compete for the conference championship.”
Fairchild was Kowalczyk’s first hire when he replaced Sonny Lubick in 2008. He went 7-6 his first year but hasn’t had a winning record since.
That downward spiral is what led university President Tony Frank to fire Kowalczyk with 3 1/2 years and $830,000 left on his contract and replace him with Graham, a retired businessman who played quarterback for CSU in the early 1970s but has never run an athletic administration.
“We’re taking everything into consideration,” said Graham when asked if a buyout would enter into his decision. “Money is always part of every conversation.”
Colorado State’s Raymond Carter ran for a career-best 158 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Garrett Grayson rushed for 91 yards and was 15-for-25 for 143 yards with three interceptions.
Grayson had a pass intercepted in the end zone, and kicker Chad VanderMolen hit the right upright on a 32-yard field goal attempt.
Grayson threw two interceptions in the first half, and Colorado State trailed 14-6 at halftime.
“We needed to convert more in the red zone,” Fairchild said. “To come away with just a couple of field goals, having a missed field goals and to come away at the end of the first half without everything, those are what end up getting you.”
VanderMolen kicked a field goal before Alvester Alexander ran 36 yards untouched into the end zone on Wyoming’s second possession for a 7-3 lead. VanderMolen followed with a 44-yarder to cut it to 7-6.
The Cowboys responded quickly. Smith found Doctson well behind Colorado State cornerback Shaq Bell for an 80-yard scoring play in the second quarter.
Carter ran for two touchdowns and Colorado State held the Cowboys to 25 yards of total offense in the third quarter to pull ahead 19-14.
Carter ran for 52 yards of an 86-yard drive and for a 4-yard touchdown on the Rams’ first possession of the second half. The Rams took a 19-14 lead when Carter scored on a 1-yard run.
The Cowboys regained the lead 20-19 when Doctson burned Bell again for a 35-yard TD reception with 8:46 left.
Wyoming stopped the Rams on a fourth-and-3 with 6:11 left. Defensive tackle Mike Purcell sacked Grayson in the end zone with 2:43 left to seal the win.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)