September 05, 2015

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) First-year Colorado State coach Mike Bobo has been stressing to his team the importance of a fast start. He got that and much more in a season opener.

Nick Stevens threw for 289 yards and five touchdowns in his first career start, and Colorado State rolled past Savannah State 65-13 on Saturday to give Bobo a victory in his head coaching debut.

''There's not a better way to win your first game as head coach than putting up 65 points,'' said Rashard Higgins, one of six Rams players to catch a touchdown pass in the fifth-highest scoring game in Colorado State's history.

The rout would have been worse but with little more than five minutes remaining, Colorado State return man Jordon Vaden, flapping his arms sideways to celebrate what would have been a 100-yard kickoff return, dropped the ball an instant before crossing the goal line. The ball rolled into the end zone for a touchback, giving possession to Savannah State.

Four of Stevens' scoring passes came in the first half, when Colorado State bolted to a 45-7 lead over the Tigers, who lost their 22nd game in a row in a streak dating to September 2013. Stevens was lifted in favor of backup Coleman Key after throwing his fifth touchdown, a 12-yarder to Joe Hansley early in the third quarter that gave the Rams a 51-7 lead.

''It felt great. It felt great because those guys went out and did what I asked them to do and what the coaches asked them to do,'' Bobo said. ''But it really isn't about me. It's about them and playing together and playing for each other and I thought they did that today.''

As for Vaden's premature scoring celebration, Bobo said he opted not to come down hard on his crestfallen player. ''I didn't feel it was a moment to come down hard on a kid,'' Bobo said. ''I think it was embarrassing enough. And hopefully it will be a lesson to all our guys that you've got to finish every play.''

Pretty much throughout the game, that's what the Rams did.

Colorado State led 38-0 before the Tigers got on the board with a 63-yard scoring run by Richard Williams late in the second quarter. It was the first touchdown scored by the Tigers since the third quarter of their game against Howard on Nov. 8, 2014.

Colorado State began the runaway with a defensive touchdown 47 seconds into the game, when linebacker Kevin Davis pounced on a fumble in the end zone, the result of a second consecutive botched shotgun snap.

The Rams' offensive display quickly followed to the dismay of Savannah State.

''It was disappointing,'' Tigers coach Earnest Wilson III said. ''Even though I have all these freshmen and sophomores, I feel like our execution wasn't there. They didn't hit us hard enough, they didn't run us over. We did it to ourselves.''

Stevens, who completed 20 of 28, also had scoring passes of 9 yards to Kivon Cartwright, 12 yards to Higgins, 35 yards to Xavier Williams and 4 yards to Jasen Oden.

''We were able to move the ball every drive,'' Stevens said. ''I think we did a really good job coming out fast and that kind of took the (first-game) nerves off everybody.''

Deionte Gaines added an 18-yard touchdown run for Colorado State, which won its school record ninth home game in a row.

Savannah State's Tino Smith finished 6 of 14 for 50 yards with an interception.

Colorado State defensive end Martavius Foster had three sacks, the first of his career.

Stevens played sparingly last season as the backup to Garrett Grayson, now with the New Orleans Saints.

Bobo, an assistant for 14 years at Georgia, his alma mater, took over at Colorado State after Jim McElwain left to become head coach at Florida following a 10-win campaign by the Rams last season.

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