ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- It was deja vu at the New Mexico Bowl. One year after Arizona's improbable rally against Nevada, Colorado State pulled off a stunning comeback to defeat Washington State 48-45 on Saturday afternoon.
Jared Roberts' 41-yard field goal with no time remaining gave the Rams (8-6) an improbable victory after they trailed 45-30 late in the fourth quarter.
"That win was pretty amazing how it worked," Colorado State coach Jim McElwain said. "At the end of the day, it's about being resilient, it's about understanding every play has a history and a life of its own. I think that was the epitome of it."
The Wildcats scored two touchdowns in the final 46 seconds to win in 2012.
This time around, Colorado State converted two Washington State fumbles into a touchdown, two-point conversion and the winning field goal in the final 2:52.
Trailing 45-37, the Rams recovered a fumble on the 33-yard line with under two minutes remaining. They proceeded to score a touchdown with 33 seconds left on Kapri Bibbs' 1-yard run, followed by a two-point conversion by Donnell Alexander.
On the ensuing kickoff return, Teondray Caldwell was stripped by Charles Lovett, and Jake Schlager recovered for Colorado State. Two plays later, Roberts' kick sailed through the uprights and set off a raucous celebration.
"For our guys to figure out a way to get it done and finish, I thought that speaks volumes for how far our program has come," McElwain said.
Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday threw for 410 yards and six touchdowns, with five of the TD passes coming in the first half. He was named the game's offensive MVP and tied the all-bowl games record with the six touchdowns passes.
"It's just really frustrating that you have all that stuff happen early in the game and that's great and everything, but games are won at the end," Halliday said. "We didn't play well at the end."
Cougars coach Mike Leach said no one part of his team was at fault in the end.
"I think down the stretch they were more consistent than we were on offense, they were more disciplined than we were on defense and they finished the game better than we did," he said. "The lesson to be learned from that is it doesn't matter where you're at, you need to go out and finish the game."
Washington State capitalized on Colorado State's miscues to take a 35-23 lead into halftime.
In the first quarter, Halliday threw touchdown passes of 25 yards to River Cracraft, 1 yard to Gabe Marks after a blocked punt set up a short field and a 28-yard strike to Theron West to give Washington State a 21-7 lead.
Colorado State's first-quarter scoring came on a 63-yard pass from quarterback Garrett Grayson to Lovett and a 25-yard field goal by Roberts.
In the second quarter, Deone Bucannon intercepted Grayson and returned the ball to the Rams' 27-yard line. Washington State needed three plays to put the ball in the end zone as Halliday found Vince Mayle for a 28-yard touchdown pass.
Colorado State's next drive stalled after five plays. The Rams' punt was poor, with Leon Brooks returning the ball to the CSU 42.
Halliday nailed two quick passes to move the ball to the 7, followed by a short run and a 3-yard pass from Halliday to Rickey Galvin for the score.
Trailing 35-13, the Rams showed some life in the final four minutes of the half. Colorado State went 75 yards in nine plays, capped by Bibbs' 1-yard scoring run.
After Washington State's next drive fizzled and pinned the Cougars back on their own 10, they mustered just a 30-yard punt. The Rams took advantage of the short field and were able to move into field goal range, with Roberts nailing a kick from 30 yards to bring his team within 12 points at halftime.
After the teams combined for 58 points in the first half, the third quarter was more of a grinder. The only touchdown came on Bibbs' 75-yard touchdown run that pulled the Rams to 38-30.
Grayson threw for 369 yards and two scores for CSU, and Bibbs ran for 169 yards on 27 attempts, with the three scores.
NOTES: Washington State's 35 points in the first half set a New Mexico Bowl record. The previous high of 31 was shared by Nevada in 2012 and BYU in 2010. ... Colorado State OL Brandon Haynes left the game in the first quarter with an undisclosed injury and was listed as questionable to return. ... Bibbs' 75-yard scoring run gave him 30 touchdowns this season, moving him into third place in NCAA history behind Barry Sanders and Monte Ball.