FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) — Colorado State athletic director Jack Graham basked in the glow of the Rams’ 58-13 shellacking of Air Force on Saturday and proclaimed, “I am confident we’ll get a bowl bid.”
Although the Rams (7-6, 5-3 Mountain West) are bowl eligible for the first time in five years, they’re one of seven teams in their conference that have qualified for postseason play and the league has six bowl tie-ins, so somebody’s going to be left out in the cold.
Graham’s confident it won’t be his school, which has so much to offer: marquee players, an exciting, high-octane offense, a dominant defense, a team that’s peaking at the right time, a big-time coach who’s turned around a downtrodden program in short order, fresh faces, a buzz.
“We earned the right to be in a bowl and we deserve to be in a bowl,” Graham said, noting the Rams would be 7-5 if you take out the extra game they added at Alabama, where they hung tough with the Crimson Tide for three quarters — not that he’d give up that experience for anything.
Second-year coach Jim McElwain said the way in which the Rams have been playing — winning five of their last seven — and the manner in which they beat the Falcons (2-10, 0-8) on Saturday should enhance their chances of playing over the holidays.
“We’ve got a pretty good football team that a lot of people would like to see,” McElwain suggested.
The main attraction is redshirt sophomore running back Kapri Bibbs, who was supposed to be a decoy Saturday because of a foot injury but ended up scoring three times, his seventh game with three or more touchdowns, an FBS record.
Bibbs’ 79 yards on 16 carries left him 30 yards shy of Cecil Sapp’s single-season rushing mark at CSU, but his three TD runs gave him 28, which leads all FBS players, two more than Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who has one game left, at Army on Dec. 14.
Garrett Grayson, who was in danger of losing his starting job in September, threw for 395 yards and three TDs. He completed 26 of 34 passes, his last one a 49-yard touchdown toss to Jordon Vaden in the third quarter that gave him 3,327 yards on the season, topping by eight yards the school’s previous single-season record set by Terry Nugent in 1983.
Of his six incompletions, three of them were drops.
The Falcons were in danger of being shut out for the first time since 1992 and were facing their biggest margin of defeat in their history until scoring two TDs against subs in the final five minutes. But this still was their worst loss to the Rams in this series that dates to 1957.
Grayson also hooked up with Rashard Higgins for two TDs. Higgins had seven catches for 127 yards.
Behind Bibbs and Grayson, the first 1,500-yard rusher and 3,000-yard passer in the same season in CSU history, the Rams clinched their first regular season winning record since 2003 — and they hope to be going to a bowl game for the first time since 2008, when they beat Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl.
“Our goal coming into this game was to send those seniors out the right way,” Grayson said. “I think we did that, putting up 58 points on the board. Let them get the Rams-Falcon trophy back here and then hopefully get the bowl game,” Grayson said.
He insisted they weren’t trying to impress the bowl selection committees.
“Nobody mentioned it,” Grayson said. “But I think it was on everybody’s mind that we need to go out there and have a big game.”
The Falcons posted their worst record since going 2-9-1 in 1980. They lost 10 games for the first time in the program’s 57-year history and went winless in conference play for the first time since joining the Western Athletic Conference in 1980.
“We got bounced around today, and frankly we got bounced around a bunch throughout the season,” Falcons coach Troy Calhoun said. “We have to look at every aspect of what we’re doing. We have to coach better, we have to play better.”
The Falcons trailed 58-0 before Colton Huntsman’s 13-yard run with 5:02 remaining.
“We just have to get better all across the board; offense, defense, special teams, me individually, coaching has got to be better, everything has to be better,” Air Force junior linebacker Jordan Pierce said. “We went 2-10 this year, and that’s not what we wanted, and next year is not going to be the same.”
BY ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Sports Writer
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