Colorado State extended its winning streak over New Mexico to 12 games with Saturday’s 17-0 victory over UNM at Canvas Stadium.

The shutout victory was CSU’s first since stomping Fresno State 37-0 at Hughes Stadium back in 2016. It also snapped the four-game losing streak the Rams brought into the matchup, allowing the seniors to go out on top after suffering through yet another losing campaign (3-9). 

Here are the takeaways from the win. 

First-half scoring drive proved to be huge

The first half was pretty much a snoozer. In the first 30 minutes there were 11 first downs combined and 11 total punts. As far as college football games go, it kinda looked like Iowa was playing a game against themselves. 

Fortunately for the Green & Gold, as slow as things started for the Rams in this one, the offense was able to mount a scoring drive late in the second quarter and it proved to be huge.  

After the defense forced the Lobos to punt for the fourth consecutive series, the Rams, led by Clay Millen, put together a five-play, 75-yard scoring drive that was capped off with a 21-yard touchdown catch by freshman wide receiver Justus Ross-Simmons. On the play Millen was able to stand in a clean pocket and deliver an absolute dime of a throw to his fellow freshman, who also made a tremendous play with the UNM defensive back draped all over.

Now, obviously the hope next year is to be able to produce like this more consistently. The pretty plays have been few and far between for a Rams offense that has been largely underwhelming in Jay Norvell’s first year on the job. 

Having said that, what was encouraging to see was that when the Rams were desperate to come away with anything, Millen was able to make multiple big plays to guide the home team down the field and into the end zone for the first time. 

Before Millen delivered with the touchdown throw, he first was able to spark the drive with a 27-yard throw downfield to Tory Horton after rolling right and evading an aggressive UNM pass rush. Then on the next play, Millen actually caught a 16-yard pass from Horton on a wide receiver reverse pass. Two plays after that, the Rams were on the board. 

Again, we need to see much more of this from the offense in the future. But after struggling to do much of anything for the majority of the first half, seeing Millen able to create a little momentum late was definitely a great sign. Sometimes games are tight. When you have a gunslinger that can make a few things happen in the heat of battle though, oftentimes that can be the difference between winning and losing. 

In total Millen finished 19-of-24 for 219 yards, with a pair of touchdown passes and zero turnovers. He is now the single-season record holder for completion percentage by a CSU quarterback. 

Millen’s leading receiver was Tory Horton, who also broke into the record books with 10 catches for 131 yards and a touchdown. In his first season in a Rams uniform, Horton posted the eight-most yards in an individual year. 

CSU defense dominated from start to finish 

Scoring points is always huge — particularly for a Rams team that has been on the losing end of multiple heartbreakers in conference play — but as many throws as Millen was able to make, clearly the defense played lights out and carried the Rams to victory on Saturday. 

One year after going into Albuquerque and holding UNM to just 69 yards of total offense in a 36-7 win, CSU’s defense was essentially just as impressive in the 2022 finale. The Rams held the Lobos to 133 total yards of offense on Saturday and allowed only two third-down conversions in the process (2-of-16). 

CSU recorded five sacks in the win, 2.5 from Chase Wilson, who had his best game of the season. The Rams had 11 more tackles for loss too, as they consistently found a way to wreak havoc in UNM’s backfield. 

It’s been an impressive two-month stretch for the CSU defense as a whole. The Rams have played consistently well on that side of the ball in every game other than the Boise State loss — at least since the beginning of conference play. Ending with a shutout is a nice way for this unit to end the fall, especially after everything they have been through this year. 

Appreciate the streak

It’s been 4,752 days since CSU last lost to UNM (Nov. 21, 2009).

The last time that the Lobos were able to beat their longtime conference foes, the number one song in the country was ‘Fireflies’ by Owl City.

Struggling program or not, beating anybody 12 consecutive times is significant, particularly somebody that is in your own division.

I hope Ram fans can take a second to appreciate how remarkable this run against the Lobos have been — even if the season did not play out like anybody hoped it would.

Author

Justin is a Colorado State alumnus and has covered the Rams for DNVR since 2019. Prior to coming to DNVR, Justin was the founder of RamsReport.com and the Sports Director for the Rocky Mountain Collegian. From 2013-15 he was an intern for CSU Football.

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