Colorado State takes control early, routs North TexasPosted: Tuesday December 18, 2001 11:51 PM
Updated: Wednesday December 19, 2001 8:24 AM
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- North Texas came into the New Orleans Bowl with a losing record, and Colorado State made sure the Mean Green left that way.
Justin Gallimore blocked a punt and recovered it for a touchdown as Colorado State opened the bowl season with a 45-20 victory Tuesday night.
North Texas (5-7) was the first team with a losing record to play in a bowl game since 1970, when William & Mary went to the Tangerine at 5-6 and lost to Toledo 40-12.
The Mean Green earned the bowl bid by finishing first in the Sun Belt Conference, which posted a combined 5-32 non-conference record.
"The critical plays of the game that kind of swung the tide went to them and that's football," North Texas head coach Darrell Dickey said. "A lot of the mistakes we made tonight were things we didn't do to get here."
A crowd of 18,898 saw Colorado State's Bradlee Van Pelt throw for one touchdown and run for another score. The Superdome fans were well behaved, a day after the NFL game between the Rams and the Saints was briefly delayed at the stadium because of debris thrown from the stands.
Gallimore's touchdown gave Colorado State (7-5) a 31-14 lead, and came just four plays after Van Pelt fumbled on the North Texas 16 -- one of his three turnovers.
"It seems like I'm always waiting for special teams to do something," Colorado State head coach Sonny Lubick said. "Their quarterback was getting hot. That blocked punt ... deflated them. From that point we took control."
After receiving the opening kickoff, Colorado State needed only three plays to score.
Van Pelt hit Pete Rebstock with a 56-yard pass to set up Brad Svoboda's 2-yard TD run on a reverse.
"We definitely wanted to open the game with a big play," Van Pelt said. "We knew for a week or so that we would start with that."
Colorado State took a 17-0 lead when Van Pelt hit Jose Ochoa from 8 yards out, capping a drive that began when North Texas running back Kevin Galbreath fumbled on his own 11.
"North Texas might not have gotten much respect from the media and all, but we knew they would come out hard," Rebstock said. "We knew that had a chip on their shoulder. We wanted to take their thunder away early."
North Texas cut the lead to 17-7 on a 5-yard pass from Scott Hall to Dustin Dean. Patrick Cobs rushed for 46 yards during the 80-yard scoring drive.
The Rams' ensuing drive began near midfield after a 44-yard kickoff return by Dexter Wynn, and Van Pelt capped it with a 6-yard keeper to make it 24-7.
Van Pelt later threw two interceptions, and the second one led to Scott Hall's 42-yard touchdown pass to Ja'Mel Branch that closed North Texas to 24-14 just before halftime.
Hall passed for 185 yards and Galbreath ran for 106.
"They're definitely one of the better teams we have faced this year," North Texas linebacker Brad Kassel said. "Offensively, they were able to find weaknesses and exploit them."