NEW ORLEANS, La. (12/18/01) Colorado State flexed its bowl game experience in overpowering North Texas relative rookies at post-season play and posting a 45-20 victory over the Mean Green in the inaugural New Orleans Bowl here Tuesday night before 27,004 at the Superdome.
The Rams, who were making their fourth straight bowl game appearance, scored in every quarter to hold off the Mean Green, who were playing in the school’s first bowl game in 42 years after claiming the Sun Belt Conference’s first-ever football championship.
CSU had four rushing touchdowns and quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt threw for another as the Rams (7-5) racked up 246 yards on the ground and passed for 129. They also intercepted one North Texas pass, recovered a fumble and blocked a Mean Green punt attempt that resulted in another score.
North Texas certainly didn’t embarrass itself, however, as sophomore quarterback Scott Hall completed 13 of 30 passes with one touchdown, backup senior Richard Bridges threw for another TD and junior running back Kevin Galbreath rushed 22 times for 108 yards.
The Mean Green showed its never-say-die attitude to the very end, scoring its final touchdown with 2:11 left in the game when Bridges came on in relief of Hall at quarterback and hooked up with freshman receiver Andy Blount for a 13-yard scoring pass play. A two-point conversion try failed.
After North Texas had trimmed the CSU lead to 10 at 24-14 at halftime, the Rams scored in the third quarter when a Jason Ball punt was blocked and recovered in the end zone by game’s Most Valuable Player, CSU defensive back Justin Gallimore.
Colorado State later scored twice in the fourth quarter on drives of 67 and 70 yards before North Texas’s Justin Claborn blocked a Ram punt to set up the Mean Green’s final TD drive.
After the teams swapped turnovers midway through the third quarter, it was a North Texas special teams miscue that enabled CSU to increase its lead to 31-14 with 59 seconds left in the period. Colorado State’s Gallimore broke through the middle to block Ball’s punt attempt from the Mean Green 16-yard and then chased it down to recover in the end zone for a touchdown.
Colorado State’s 17-0 first quarter lead the most first-quarter points given up by the Mean Green this season was the result of the Rams scoring on their first three possessions of the game. A 56-yard pass completion on the game’s first play set up CSU’s first touchdown, a two-yard run by Brad Svoboda. Then Kent Naughton kicked a 46-yard field goal, the longest of his career, to up the Rams’ lead to 10-0 on their second series.
A fumble by Galbreath on North Texas’ second possession at the Mean Green 11-yard line set up the Rams’ second touchdown. Three plays after the recovery, Van Pelt passed eight yards to Jose Ochoa for the TD with 7:08 left in the quarter.
Hall then orchestrated an impressive drive to get North Texas on the scoreboard, marching the Mean Green 80 yards with a 12-play drive that used up 6:08 on the clock. Hall finished off the drive with a five-yard touchdown pass to Dustin Dean to pull the Mean Green to within 17-7 with 12:23 left in the second quarter.
A 44-yard kickoff return on the following kickoff set the Rams up at their own 47 and it took Van Pelt nine plays before scoring on a six-yard TD run to give Colorado State a 24-7 lead.
Interceptions by North Texas defensive backs Jonas Buckles and Don McGee stopped CSU’s next two offensive series. After McGee’s interception, with 1:07 left before halftime, the Mean Green reeled off four plays before Hall hooked up with Ja’Mel Branch on a 47-yard scoring strike down the middle of the field to cut the score to 24-14.
- The game’s first play from scrimmage, Colorado State’s 56-yard pass play from Bradlee Van Pelt to Pete Rebstock, was the third longest against the North Texas defense this season.
- The Rams’ 17 first-quarter points were the most points allowed by the Mean Green in the first quarter of a game this season.
- Fullback Dustin Dean’s 5-yard touchdown catch from Scott Hall at 12:23 in the second quarter was just his second pass reception this season and his first for a touchdown. The score was Dean’s second career touchdown pass reception.
- Running back Michael Hickmon sprained his left ankle late in the first quarter and was questionable to return.
- With 2:35 left in the second quarter, freshman Jonas Buckles made his team-leading sixth interception of the season on a tipped pass from Rams quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt.
- When CSU’s Justin Gallimore blocked Jason Ball’s punt attempt and recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown in the third quarter, it was the first time in three seasons, since 1999, that a North Texas blocked punt had been recovered for a TD.
- Don McGee’s interception late in the second quarter was his third of the season.
- The 42-yard Scott Hall-to-Ja’Mel Branch TD pass 40 seconds before halftime was Branch’s fourth TD catch of the season and Hall’s 18th scoring pass of the year.
- CSU’s 45 points are the most allowed by the Mean Green this season.