Johnson reaches 1,000 yards in Rams win
FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP)—Gartrell Johnson waited nearly five years to have a 1,000-yard season. The Colorado State fifth-year senior wasn’t about to hastily enjoy reaching this personal milestone.
“It’s been a long time coming, and I didn’t know about it until I started taking off my shoulder pads,” said Johnson, who ran for 957 yards last year. “I’m still soaking it up, and I don’t think I’ll take the pads off for another hour.”
Johnson rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown Saturday as Colorado State kept its bowl hopes alive with a 20-6 win over New Mexico.
“Gartrell is such an intense player,” Colorado State coach Steve Fairchild said. “He doesn’t take a play off and puts his heart and soul into every play.”
The Lobos lost their fourth straight game, their longest skid since 1998, and they’ll miss the postseason for just the second time in seven seasons.
“This is real tough to swallow after we’ve been to a bowl almost every year,” said New Mexico running back Rodney Ferguson. “They didn’t stop us. We stopped ourselves.”
Johnson became Colorado State’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Kyle Bell did it in 2005. He is the first runner to have a 100-yard game against New Mexico since he did it last year, when he rushed for 172 yards against the Lobos.
Billy Farris threw for 237 yards and a touchdown for Colorado State (5-6, 3-4 Mountain West) as the Rams snapped a two-game skid. They can become bowl eligible for the first time since 2005 with a win at Wyoming next week.
“The main idea was to get Gartrell the ball,” Farris said. “We wanted to get the run game going and hit some big plays.”
Ferguson ran for 85 yards for New Mexico (4-8, 2-6), which trailed 10-3 at halftime.
“It was tough running the ball,” said Ferguson. “They keyed on me, and that’s something I’ve had to deal with all year.”
The Rams drove deep into New Mexico territory twice in the first quarter but settled for a 25-yard field goal by Jason Smith on the game’s opening drive. Farris overthrew Kory Sperry in the end zone on a 4th-and-goal from the Lobos 2 late in the quarter.
New Mexico kicker James Aho missed a 46-yard field goal and the Rams marched to the New Mexico 26 on its next possession, only to watch Clint McPeek intercept a pass in the end zone.
Aho tied the game at 3-3 with a 36-yard field goal with 5:05 left in the second quarter.
Colorado State finally got into the end zone with 1:37 left in the half on Johnson’s 12-yard touchdown run, which put him over the 1,000-yard mark.
“I slipped on some guys, got through there and I just kept driving,” Johnson said. “I wanted to get in because I know how tough they are around the goal line.”
New Mexico drove to the Rams 12 with 18 seconds left in the half, but Brad Gruner threw three incompletions, the final one as time expired.
“That was my fault,” New Mexico coach Rocky Long said of his decision not to kick a field goal. “We had taken three seconds the play before, they were in man coverage and we had a guy wide open, so I took a chance.”
Dion Morton just got his right foot in bounds at the back of the end zone on a 6-yard pass from Farris in the third quarter. Johnson had a 13-yard run in the drive and the Rams increased their lead to 17-3.
The teams exchanged field goals early in the fourth quarter. Smith kicked a 42-yarder for Colorado State and Aho booted a 25-yarder for the Lobos.