CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. — On a miserably muggy night when a lot of running backs would have wilted, Cecil Sapp pounded out 178 yards and scored twice, and Colorado State held on for a 35-29 victory over Virginia on Thursday night.
The Cavaliers had a chance to win in the game's final seconds, but reserve freshman quarterback Marques Hagans fumbled on the Rams' 1-yard line with 10 seconds to go.
Sapp carried the ball 25 times, 14 in the second half on a night when the gametime temperature was 97 degrees. The game was the earliest season opener in Division I history.
"I was worried about him wearing down, but he was as strong in the second half as he was in the first," Rams coach Sonny Lubick said. "I didn't think I was going to go the whole game with one tailback."
Jeff Babcock kicked five field goals, including a 46-yarder that put the Rams ahead for good with 4:07 to play.
With 8:16 remaining and the score tied at 29, the Rams managed what turned out to be the game-winning drive, at one point facing first-and-32 at their own 4 after a high snap and a clipping penalty.
Three plays after the field goal, Colorado State's Dexter Wynn picked off an errant pass and returned it to the Virginia 5. Babcock kicked his fifth field goal of the game to make it 35-29 with 2:20 remaining.
Hagans, who unexpectedly shared duties with junior Matt Schaub, drove the Cavaliers 81 yards in two minutes, but fumbled while scrambling in the final seconds.
"I was pretty sure we would get in," Hagans said of the final drive. "I'm not really disappointed. You can't win them all, but I thought we were going to win this one."
Hagans' play drew praise from Virginia coach Al Groh and Lubick.
"He kind of caught us off balance when he came into the game," Lubick said. "Boy, he's quick."
The Cavaliers, who played 10 true freshmen in the game, looked sloppy early, fumbling the ball three times, missing tackles and falling behind 19-7 at halftime.
"The most disappointing part was that, after months of emphasis, we turned the ball over five times," Groh said.
Colorado State led 6-0 after one quarter, but Virginia jump-started its offense in the second quarter when Groh replaced Schaub with Hagans, who immediately led his team on a 44-yard touchdown drive. Hagans ran the ball four times for 28 yards on that drive, including a 1-yard TD run.
Virginia, which played the entire 2001 season with an ongoing quarterback controversy, likely faces a similar situation again.