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NWA Democrat-Gazette/BEN GOFF @NWABENGOFF
Jonathan Nance, Arkansas wide receiver, leaves the field after a loss to Colorado State Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Canvas Stadium in Fort Collins, Colo.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/BEN GOFF @NWABENGOFF Jonathan Nance, Arkansas wide receiver, leaves the field after a loss to Colorado State Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Canvas Stadium in Fort Collins, Colo.

Razorbacks lose 27-9 lead, then game to Rams

By Tom Murphy, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
This article was published September 9, 2018 at 8:18 a.m.

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Izzy Matthews powered over from the 1 with eight seconds left in the game to cap Colorado State's furious second-half comeback for a 34-27 victory over the University of Arkansas on Saturday.

A band of fans joined the Rams at midfield to celebrate, and then pulled down the north end zone goal post after Colorado State logged the upset. The Rams came into the game as a two-touchdown underdog.

Colorado State (1-2) had been run over by Hawaii and Colorado in its first two games and fell behind big to the Razorbacks. Arkansas got its ground game going to the tune of 299 yards, but could not sustain drives in the game's final 18 minutes.

Arkansas quarterback Cole Kelley, who came in for an ineffective Ty Storey to open the second half and threw touchdowns on his first two passes, maintained that the Razorbacks let the game slip more than Colorado State took it away.

"We were better than that team, hands down," Kelley said. "They know that, we know that. But we lost the game.

"We beat ourselves today. Colorado State did not beat us. We beat ourselves."

Coach Chad Morris said Colorado State was too much for the Hogs at the end.

"We felt the longer we let them hang around and the more momentum they picked up, the more confidence they got, so I give them credit," Morris said.

The Razorbacks (1-1) led by 18 points midway through the third quarter but could not hold the lead after getting a spark from Kelley.

K.J. Carta-Samuels led Colorado State to scores on the Rams' final four series, including back-to-back touchdown drives after Arkansas led 27-9.

Carta-Samuels was 32-of-47 passing for 389 yards, with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception, with 291 yards coming in the second half.

Arkansas managed eight offensive plays for 16 yards in the fourth quarter as the surging Rams rallied behind their passing game.

The Razorbacks struggled to contain 6-4 wideout Preston Williams, who caught 12 passes for 154 yards and 2 touchdowns.

"I said early in the week they had great receivers and a good quarterback," said Arkansas cornerback Ryan Pulley, who had a first-quarter interception on a deep pass for Williams.

Arkansas outgained the Rams 437-429 in total offense but fizzled late offensively after pounding Colorado State early in the game.

The Razorbacks were determined to crank up their running game after rushing for 80 yards against Eastern Illinois in the opener.

Devwah Whaley ran for a career-high 165 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries to lead the Hogs' running attack.

The game seemed to turn with Arkansas leading 27-17 at the end of the third quarter. The Razorbacks faced a fourth and inches at the 50 after Kelley's out route to La'Michael Pettway picked up 6 yards. Following a review of the gain and a break to start the fourth quarter, Morris elected to punt.

"Yeah, you know obviously looking back on it, [I] almost wish I would have went with it on fourth down," Morris said. "We were back and fourth on the headsets. Because they were creating some momentum, we didn't want to give them a short field. The way our defense was playing at that time we wanted to pin them deep."

The Razorbacks did pin Colorado State deep with a punt to the 8 and a penalty that backed the Rams up to the 4. Carta-Samuels went 6 for 6 to engineer a 96-yard touchdown drive capped by Williams' 10-yard highlight-reel touchdown catch.

The Razorbacks got a mixed bag from their two-quarterback rotation.

Ty Storey, who came off the bench in the second quarter to spark Arkansas' season-opening victory over Eastern Illinois, struggled in his first start. The junior went 5 of 13 for 36 yards and threw 2 first-half interceptions, both of which led to Colorado State field goals from Wyatt Bryan, who hit from 55, 46, 44 and 22 yards.

Arkansas dominated the half 253-99 in total yards but could only manage Whaley's short touchdown run and two Connor Limpert field goals.

Kelley started the second half and had a 5-yard run for a first down aided by a face-mask call against the Rams to move the ball into Colorado State territory. Kelley's fade for Pettway beat cornerback Anthony Hawkins for a 25-yard touchdown pass as the Razorbacks moved ahead 20-9.

The Razorbacks' defense allowed two long pass plays but secured their second takeaway at the Arkansas 34 when Armon Watts had a strip-sack of Carta-Samuels and McTelvin Agim recovered the fumble.

Arkansas got a boost on its next snap, as T.J. Hammonds took a short pass and broke it around left end. The junior stumbled for a moment, then got his footing and sprinted to the end zone for a 64-yard touchdown and a 27-9 lead.

"We thought we had it finished and wrapped up, but Colorado State came out and made the plays," Hammonds said. "It's a horrible loss."

The Razorbacks missed a golden opportunity to add to the lead and possibly put the game away on their next possession. After a three-and-out by the Rams, Ryan Stonehouse launched a 58-yard punt. Deon Stewart caught the long punt heading backward, whirled and got around left end for a 45-yard return to the Colorado State 28.

Kelley threw a fade route for Jordan Jones on the next play, and Jones caught the pass with one foot tapping inbound and the other out. The Mountain West Conference officials ruled the play incomplete and the decision was upheld on review.

After a false start, Limpert's 48-yard field goal was short and wide right.

"I thought the big punt return and the missed field goal was a big turning point in the game," Morris said.

The Rams got rolling at that point, with Carta-Samuels conducting back-to-back touchdown drives covering 70 and 96 yards.

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