FORT COLLINS – Preston Williams watched his quarterback absorb hit after hit trying to deliver him passes.
The Colorado State receiver kiddingly figured the least he could do was dive for a floating pass late in the game after K.J. Carta-Samuels took another wallop.
“Why not catch a ball for him? Make it worth that hit,” Williams cracked.
Williams’ sliding catch led to an Izzy Matthews score from a yard out with eight seconds remaining and Colorado State rallied from an 18-point second-half deficit to beat Arkansas 34-27 on Saturday night in a rare visit to Fort Collins by a Southeastern Conference team.
Carta-Samuels made one of the plays of the night to get a pass to the diving Williams for a 25-yard gain. It moved the Rams into scoring range and moments later Matthews powered it in.
This turned into the Carta-Samuels-to-Williams show as the duo connected 12 times for 154 yards and two scores.
“He’s such a great receiver,” said Carta-Samuels, who had 291 of his 389 yards passing in the second half. “It’s incredible to throw to a target like that.”
A 13-point underdog, Colorado State (1-2) tied the game at 27 with 5:19 remaining on a 22-yard field goal by Wyatt Bryan. It was his fourth field goal of the game.
A maligned Rams defense came up big all evening with constant pressure and two interceptions. On the last play of the game, the Razorbacks (1-1) tried to lateral it back and in the confusion the Colorado State cannon went off. When the whistle finally sounded, the players and fans stormed the field in celebration.
“Probably a lot of people out there didn’t think we could get it done,” Colorado State coach Mike Bobo said. “Our team kept playing for each other and that’s what makes you proud.”
Arkansas quarterback Cole Kelley relieved starter Ty Storey to begin the second half and provided a temporary spark for a stagnant Arkansas offense. He completed his first two passes — a 25-yard TD strike to La’Michael Pettway and a 64-yard TD pass to T.J. Hammonds — to give the Razorbacks a 27-9 lead.
The Razorbacks defense couldn’t make it hold.
“We think we can be in any game,” said Carta-Samuels, a graduate transfer from Washington. “I believe that and the rest of our team believes that as well.”
The Razorbacks looked sharp in their chrome red helmets. But their actual play on the field took a bit to warm up. Storey was 5 of 13 for 36 yards and two interceptions in the first half. Both of his miscues led to Colorado State field goals.
Enter Kelley after halftime.
After his fast start, Kelley struggled, too. The Razorbacks couldn’t take advantage of a Rams defense that given up an average of 44 points entering the game.
“This one hurts,” Kelley said. “We beat ourselves.”
Arkansas became just the second SEC football team that’s traveled to Fort Collins. The Rams were beaten by a ranked Mississippi State squad in 1981.
Bobo hobbled along the sideline as he heals from numbness in his feet. He had an assistant close by on the sideline to protect him. Bobo spent a week-and-a-half in the hospital leading up to the season opener against Hawaii.
Three games into the season and the Rams took their first lead of the season on Bryan’s 55-yard field goal early in the first quarter. It’s the longest field goal by a Rams kicker since 1992.
They took their second lead of the year with eight seconds remaining.
“We knew their backs were against the wall,” Arkansas coach Chad Morris said. “And the longer we let them hang around, the more confidence they’d have.”
THE TAKEAWAYArkansas: Another week, another round of QB questions await for Morris. “We look at film and make decisions,” he said.
Colorado State: Jordan Fogal and Emmanuel Jones picked off passes for a Colorado State defense that showed big signs of improvement. “We were just fed up of getting beat,” Fogal said.
THIS & THATFormer Arkansas and Denver Broncos standout safety Steve Atwater was on hand to watch the game. So was Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. ... Bryan’s big night allowed him to take over as Colorado State’s all-time scoring leader. “What a feat,” Bobo said. ... Arkansas RB Devwah Whaley rushed for 165 yards and a score.
UP NEXTArkansas hosts North Texas next Saturday. The Razorbacks are 9-0 all-time against the Mean Green.
Colorado State travels to Gainesville, Florida, next Saturday for the program’s first meeting with the Gators on the football field.