SAN DIEGO — Colorado State's special teams were truly special Monday night in the 20th Holiday Bowl football game at Qualcomm Stadium.
The Western Athletic Conference champions scored one touchdown on a punt return and another on a fake field goal en route to a 35-24 victory over Missouri of the Big 12 before a crowd of 50,761.
The punt return, an 85-yard dash by wide receiver Darran Hall early in the third quarter, put the Rams (11-2) ahead to stay at 21-17. The touchdown on a fake field goal, a 23-yard run by holder/backup quarterback Ryan Eslinger, completed the scoring.
Afterward, Colorado State Coach Sonny Lubick said, "We knew we had a chance to do some good with our kicking game. We worked all year on the fake field goal, but I never called it. I finally said, 'Let's go with the fake,' and I was just hoping for a first down. I never thought about a touchdown."
Missouri Coach Larry Smith bemoaned the futility of a kicking game that bedeviled the Tigers (7-5) all season.
"It just killed us," Smith said. "We had some momentum going in the second quarter when we went ahead [17-14 at halftime], but the punt return turned the game around. Then we gave up a touchdown on the fake field goal, and we fumbled a punt, and our coverage was terrible. The kicking game was everything."
Hall, a graduate of Lincoln High School in San Diego, also scored on a 14-yard reverse, and shared the most-valuable-player award with another local product, quarterback Moses Moreno of Castle Park High in Chula Vista.
Actually, Hall and Moreno were voted co-offensive MVPs, but perhaps because 59 points were scored, no defensive MVP was chosen.
Moreno ended his college career by completing 18 of 24 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions.
Missouri had the leading rusher of the game in quarterback Corby Jones, who gained 132 yards in 20 carries. But as big a running threat as he was, Jones had a terrible night as a passer. He completed only seven of 17 passes for 68 yards and no touchdowns, with one interception.
The offenses dominated a seesaw first half.
Colorado State opened the game with an 85-yard march, climaxed by Hall's end-around run that caught the Tiger defense napping.
Missouri came back with a 32-yard field goal by Scott Knickman late in the first quarter and a four-yard run by Jones late in the second. Its touchdown was set up by a 61-yard punt by Vince Sebo, a Holiday Bowl record, and nose tackle Donnell Jones' recovery of fullback Damon Washington's fumble on the Colorado State 37.
Both teams scored in the final 4:28 of the half.