Colorado State scores 11 points in final minute to stun Washington State in New Mexico Bowl

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Too many bowl games? Tell that to Colorado State fans.

Colorado State (8-6, 5-3 MWC) took advantage of some late miscues by Washington State (6-7, 4-5 Pac 12) to win the first bowl game of the season. Kapri Bibbs pushed through for his third touchdown if the game to bring the Rams within two points of Washington State and an official review overturned a two-point conversion ruling to give Colorado State two more points to tie the game at 45-45 in the final minute of the fourth quarter. A fumbled kickoff return set the Rams up for a game winning field goal as time expired for a wild 48-45 victory.

Washington State coughed away a late lead in the game at a time when Colorado State had no timeouts to stop the clock with two minutes to play. One lost fumble was overturned following a lengthy review determining Halliday had been down before losing the football. But a handoff on the very next play saw Colorado State rip the football away from the running back to have one final chance to tie the game up. The Rams took advantage with Bibbs pushing in for the touchdown, his third of the game.

The first quarter of this one had a little bit of everything. In the first 40 seconds in to the game both teams had turned the football over. Halliday got in to a bit of a shouting match with Colorado State defensive line coach Greg Lupfer after tossing the game’s first touchdown of the afternoon. The Rams got off to a poor start and Washington State took advantage with great starting field position set up by a blocked punt in the end zone allowing Washington State to score an easy touchdown for a quick 14-0 lead. The Cougars took a 35-23 lead in to the half.

Colorado State’s Bibbs rushed for his 30th touchdown of the season in the third quarter to cut the Washington State lead to 38-30. With the touchdown run Bibbs joined some elite company in college football history by becoming the third running back to rush for 30 touchdowns in a single season. He joins former Wisconsin running back Montee Ball and former Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma State Barry Sanders. Bibbs ended the game with a game-high 169 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He became the first FBS player to rush for three touchdowns in a game eight different times in a season as well.

Where Washington State goes from here should be fun to follow. Mike Leach‘s team ends on a low note but has a bright future ahead of them. Washington State was a young team this season. On the depth chart for this bowl game the first team offense and defense had eight seniors, so there will be some holes to fill, most notably on the offensive line and in the secondary. Leach was always expected to be capable of turning things around for Washington State the way he did at Texas Tech. This season showed they still have a long way to go before being able to challenge the likes of Stanford and Oregon for Pac 12 North bragging rights, and with Chris Petersen taking over at rival Washington the challenges may only get tougher in the future, but the Cougars have now come close to the thrill of postseason victory, and that can do a lot to continue building on a foundation.

And let us not overlook what Jim McElwain has done with Colorado State since taking over as head coach. Just as Leach has created an identity for Washington State’s turnaround, McElwain is bringing a bit of a Nick Saban-esque toughness to the program and the signs of progress are showing. In just his second year in the job, McElwain coached the Rams to a winning regular season and is in a conference where competing for a championship is not a far-fetched idea if things continue to develop.

Washington State opens the 2014 season in Seattle’s Century Link Field against Rutgers, who will be making their debut as a member of the Big Ten. The Cougars also get homes games against Oregon, USC and Washington.

Colorado State’s 2014 will begin in Denver against rival Colorado along with a home game against Tulsa.