Gartrell Johnson rushed for a career-high 285 yards and scored two touchdowns as Colorado State rallied for a 40-35 victory over Fresno State on Saturday in the New Mexico Bowl.
Johnson sealed Colorado State's first bowl victory since 2001 on
a 77-yard touchdown with 1:46 remaining, igniting a celebration by
fans who made the 7-hour drive from Fort Collins, Colo.
Johnson added 90 yards receiving for 375 total yards.
The Rams (7-6) took their first lead at 33-28 when Billy Farris
threw a 69-yard TD to Rashaun Greer with seven minutes left. Fresno
State cornerback Sharrod Davis took a big chance but whiffed on his
attempt to bat the ball. Greer made the catch at the 30 and went
untouched into the end zone.
The loss capped a rough season for the injury-depleted Bulldogs
(7-6), who talked in fall workouts about a possible Bowl
Championship Series run. They led 28-20 early in the fourth
The loss also spoiled big rushing efforts by Anthony Harding and
Lonyae Miller, who each scored twice. Harding finished with 120
yards rushing, and Miller added 113.
Fresno State got within 40-35 with 55 seconds to go when Tom
Brandstater threw a 7-yard pass to Ryan Skidmore. But Colorado
State's Kyle Bell had no trouble fielding the ensuing onside kick.
Fans came out of the stands as the final seconds ticked off,
capping a strong first season for Colorado State coach Steve
Johnson was named most valuable offensive player, and he put on
a show for 24,735 fans.
He broke a 57-yard run in the first quarter and went another 57
yards on a shovel pass from Farris in the second, leaving defenders
reaching for the dreadlocks tumbling out of his helmet.
Johnson, who averaged 99 yards rushing this season, had 97 by
the end of the first quarter. He went wild against a young Fresno
State defense that had allowed 197 yards rushing per game.
Rams defensive end Tommie Hill earned most valuable defensive
honors. His interception set up a 1-yard TD run by Johnson that
pulled Colorado State to within 28-26 with 9:45 to play.
The Rams trailed 21-20 after 6-foot-6 Kory Sperry caught a
perfectly placed ball from Farris and beat two defenders in the
corner of the end zone with two seconds remaining in the first
The Bulldogs played without six starters - four on defense - who
were lost for the season. But they were in control most of the way.
Miller scored Fresno State's first TD on a 1-yard plunge. Then
he bounced outside for a 69-yard TD run to put the Bulldogs up
21-13 late in the second quarter.
Colorado State hadn't won a bowl game since beating North Texas
45-20 at the New Orleans Bowl in 2001.
Fairchild, a former Colorado State quarterback, got the Rams in
a bowl for the first time since the 2005 Poinsettia Bowl and turned
a corner from last year's 3-9 record, which led to the dismissal of