FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) Colorado State coach Mike Bobo saluted his players for giving it their all against the Minnesota Gophers, saying ''they played hard, and I mean hard, for 60 minutes.''
The problem was the 61st.
Defensive tackle Scott Ekpe stripped running back Dalyn Dawkins on the first play of overtime and Ryan Santoso kicked an 18-yard field goal as Minnesota escaped Colorado State with a 23-20 win Saturday.
''He's the toughest guy on this football team pound for pound,'' Bobo said. ''Just an unfortunate incident.''
Dawkins was trying to gather a pass but a linebacker wasn't blocked on the screen and he never had a chance.
''Right when I turned around, I got hit,'' Dawkins said.
The officials ruled it a fumble, but the ball never hit the ground, so it was actually an interception.
Either way, it was Minnesota's ball.
''I had those situations happen in practice this fall and they always seemed to get away,'' Ekpe said. ''This time it actually stuck to my gut.''
Rodney Smith ran five times for 24 yards to the 1, then Santosa ended it.
It took that extra time for the Gophers (1-1) to get acclimated to the altitude and shake off both their tough loss to TCU in their opener and the scrappy Rams who were playing without their superstar receiver and his backup.
The game was dominated by defense until the final minute of regulation when both teams finally found a rhythm.
After converting just 4 of 17 third downs, the Gophers converted a fourth-and-6 pass play from their 40 on their way to the go-ahead touchdown with 55 seconds left - a 22-yard pass from Mitch Leidner to KJ Maye that put Minnesota ahead 20-17.
Leidner completed 23 passes but misfired 22 others.
''He had some problems,'' Gophers coach Jerry Kill said. ''How can I make a statement against him when he takes us down the field for the lead late in the game? He handled the end of the game pretty good.
''Winning is all that matters.''
Backup quarterback Coleman Key, subbing for ineffective starter Nick Stevens, led CSU quickly downfield and Wyatt Bryan calmly kicked a 37-yard field goal at the end of regulation after Kill failed to ice him by calling back-to-back timeouts.
Key also hit Joe Hansley on a crossing pattern for a 49-yard touchdown to put CSU ahead 17-13 early in the fourth quarter.
Bobo, was trying to become the first Rams coach to start 2-0 since Bob Davis in 1947, said Stevens will still be his starter this week as the Rams prepare for their rival Colorado, ''but Coleman's got to get ready like he's going to play as well. I don't want to say there's a quarterback controversy. But both guys missed guys wide open.''
The Rams (1-1) sorely missed All-American receiver Rashard Higgins, who hurt an ankle in the opener and sat this one out. His replacement, Jordon Vaden, lasted just three snaps before leaving the game with a right hip injury.
With the Gophers missing two safeties, the game became a grind-it-out affair.
''Everyone watching that game knows we're not a team to push around,'' said Dawkins, who ran for 92 yards and a TD. ''We're going to fight to the end, the very, very end.''
Then, the ball and the game slipped from their grasp.
''Like I told the guys in there today, I'm not, and I know they're not, about moral victories,'' Bobo said. ''We play the game to win and the bottom line is we didn't do enough.''
AP college football site: http://collegefootball.ap.org