AP Photo/Matt York

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


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.

USC’s Max Tuerk already questionable for Notre Dame game

TUCSON, AZ - OCTOBER 11:  Center Max Tuerk #75 of the USC Trojans prepares to snap the football during the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on October 11, 2014 in Tucson, Arizona.  The Trojans defeatred the Wildcats 28-26.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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As if the questions about the head coach’s future aren’t enough, now USC could have a rather significant issue in the middle of its offensive line to deal with as well.

Early in the first quarter of what would turn out to be an embarrassing loss to Washington Thursday night, Max Tuerk sustained a sprained knee. Upon further examination, it was determined that the veteran center would be unable to return to the game.

Not only that, Tuerk, who was wearing a brace on his right knee following the loss, is already labeled as questionable for what it in every sense of the phrase a must-win game for Steve Sarkisian against Notre Dame eight days from now.

With Tuerk sidelined for the remainder of the game, he was replaced by Toa Lobendahn. It’s unclear which direction the Trojans would go if Tuerk is a no-go this weekend, although Khaliel Rodgers, who had been dealing with a personal issue, has been Tuerk’s backup.

Tuerk has started 38 games in his Trojan career — 18 at center, 14 at left guard, five at left tackle, one at right tackle. Lobendahn started all 13 games as a true freshman last season, the first eight at left guard and then five at right tackle.

Was Washington loss the beginning of the end of the Steve Sarkisian era at USC?

Steve Sarkisian

Steve Sarkisian’s win totals in his six previous seasons are both a positive and a negative.

On one hand, he resurrected a moribund Washington program that went 0-12 under Ty Willingham in 2008 and took them to four consecutive bowl games from 2010-2013. He won nine games his last year in Seattle, then led a talented-yet-thin USC team to a nine-win season and AP No. 20 finish in 2014.

Those are good accomplishments. But the flip side of the argument is Sarkisian has never won double-digit games in a season, something that’s a necessity to keep one’s job at USC. The Trojans’ 17-12 loss to Washington last night — at home, no less — means the road to 10 wins and a Pac-12 title will be awfully difficult.

And worse yet, there are plenty of arguments to be made Sarkisian doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt and a little more time in Los Angeles to turn things around (#SarkAfterDark, his drunken rant at a booster event, certainly doesn’t help). The reaction from national media to last night’s loss looked like this:

Mandel, in his column, argued USC is right where it was two years ago with Lane Kiffin as its coach. And there’s this embarrassing thought, that looks more and more like a truth, for Pat Haden:

This one, however, was the most damning by far for many reasons, most notably that it came at the hands of Sarkisian’s old team. The sense among many Washington fans nearly two years ago was that the Huskies managed to upgrade coaches when the school lured Chris Petersen from Boise State upon Sarkisian’s departure to USC.

They were right.

USA Today’s Dan Wolken similarly wrote that USC needs to drop Sarkisian and bring in Chip Kelly from the Philadelphia Eagles.

This is the state of USC, and it may not get better. The Trojans start a brutal three-game stretch next Saturday at Notre Dame in primetime, then welcome Utah to Los Angeles the next week. A Halloween trip to Berkeley to face Jared Goff and Cal finishes it up. There’s a very real chance USC, for all its talent and all its hype, limps into November with a 4-4 or 3-5 record.

Sarkisian will have to engineer and sustain a major turnaround in these coming weeks, otherwise he’ll give Haden all the ammo he needs to unceremoniously jettison him after two years.