FORT COLLINS, Colorado (Ticker) -- Larry Croom was the perfect decoy.
Croom made Colorado State bite on a play-action fake on 3rd-and-4, allowing Kurt Nantkes to complete a 29-yard pass to tight end DeJhown Manley with 46 seconds remaining, lifting UNLV to a 36-33 triumph over the 13th-ranked Rams.
Though Dillon Pieffer's extra-point attempt was blocked, Dexter Wynn fumbled on the ensuing kickoff return and the Rebels (5-7, 3-4 Mountain West Conference) ran out the clock, preventing the Rams (10-3, 6-1) from completing their first perfect mark in MWC play.
The Rams had payed extra attention to Croom, who exploded for 222 yards on 20 carries.
Despite the setback, Colorado State, which had won six straight games, will face Texas Christian in the Liberty Bowl. The Rams clinched the bowl berth with a victory over New Mexico last week.
Joe Haro rushed for 126 yards on 14 carries and Earvin Johnson caught 12 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns for the Rebels, who had lost three of their previous four contests and were coming off a bye week.
Cecil Sapp rushed for 157 yards - his eighth 100-yard game of the season - for Colorado State. He has 1,495 yards this season, surpassing Steve Bartalo's school record of 1,419 set in 1986.
UNLV took a 27-22 lead with 11:17 to play on a four-yard pass from Nantkes to Earvin Johnson after a 57-yard run by Croom. Wynn intercepted the Rebels' two-point conversion pass.
On the Rebels' next possession, Haro broke loose for his own 57-yard run to the Colorado State 8. On third down, Nantkes appeared to complete a pass to Johnson in the front right corner of the end zone, but he was ruled to be out of bounds. Replays indicated his right leg was down in the end zone.
Pieffer then kicked a 23-yard field goal to make it 30-22 with 8:27 to go.
But Wynn returned the ensuing kickoff to the Colorado State 46, and three plays later, Rashaan Sanders scored on a 26-yard cutback run. On the two-point conversion attempt, Bradlee Van Pelt eluded a sack and completed a pass to Joey Cuppari to tie with game with 7:36 left.
Rams safety David Vickers stripped Haro on the Rebels' next drive, and the ball was recovered by linebacker Eric Pauly. Six plays later, Jeff Babcock kicked a 26-yard field goal to put the Rams ahead, 33-30, with 4:06 to play.
Nantkes and Van Pelt both completed 16-of-26 attempts. Nantkes threw for 185 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, while Van Pelt gained 216 yards with one TD and one interception.
UNLV outgained Colorado State on the ground, 390-232. The last time the Rams surrendered more than 200 yards rushing at home was November 17, 1975, against Utah State.
Colorado State missed an opportunity to tie its school record for wins. The Rams went 11-2 in 1997.
The Rams led, 19-7, after a 36-yard field goal by Babcock with 7:36 to play in the second quarter. The Rebels got within 19-14 on a three-yard run by Croom with 27 seconds left in the half and took a 21-19 lead on a 10-yard pass from Nantkes to Johnson early in the third quarter.
Babcock kicked four field goals to increase his school-record total to 23 this season. The previous mark, 21, was set by Derek Franz in 1998.