Colorado St. 45, North Texas 20

Wednesday, December 19th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ North Texas went the entire regular season without winning a game outside the Sun Belt Conference.

The Mean Green couldn't do it in the inaugural New Orleans Bowl, either.

Justin Gallimore blocked a punt and recovered it for a touchdown as Colorado State opened the bowl season with a 45-20 victory over North Texas on Tuesday night.

The Mean Green (5-7) were 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.

North Texas earned the bid by finishing first in the Sun Belt, which posted a combined 532 nonconference record, but didn't fare well against the Rams.

``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.''

A crowd of 18,898 saw Colorado State quarterback 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 St. Louis 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.

``It seems like I'm always waiting for special teams to do something,'' Colorado State 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 complete a 74-yard scoring drive.

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.''

The Rams made it 17-0 when Van Pelt hit Jose Ochoa from 8 yards out, taking advantage of a fumble by North Texas running back Kevin Galbreath 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 they had a chip on their shoulder. We wanted to take their thunder away early.''

North Texas cut it to 17-7 on a 5-yard pass from Scott Hall to Dustin Dean. Patrick Cobs rushed for 46 yards during the 80-yard 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.

But Van Pelt began to struggle, committing three turnovers that nearly allowed North Texas back into the game.

He threw two interceptions, and the second one led to a 42-yard touchdown pass from Scott Hall to Ja'Mel Branch that closed North Texas to 24-14 at halftime.

The Mean Green moved the ball well at times, outpassing Colorado State 196 yards to 129. But several North Texas drives stalled soon after crossing midfield.

Hall passed for 185 yards, and Galbreath ran for 106.

``The critical plays of the game that kind of swung the tide went to them, and that's football,'' North Texas coach Darrell Dickey said. ``A lot of the mistakes we made were things we didn't do to get here.''