Monday, August 26, 2019

You Play To Win The Game (Part II)

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Mikey's Prediction Table
Week 1 - CU
Week 2 - WIU
Week 3 - Arkansas
Week 4 - Toledo
Week 5 - Utah State
Week 6 - San Diego State

Preseason Predictions

The warm temperatures that are permeating through Colorado late into August are causing my brain to have issues accepting that fall is on its way. Despite the unbearable heat, autumn is coming and is bringing our favorite things with it: pumpkin flavoring, hoodie weather (PLEASE!), changing colors, and college football!!

Last season was a year of program changes from top to bottom. The two coordinator positions were new, the Rams had the least amount of starting experience in college football, and projected stud quarterback Collin Hill was sidelined for a chunk of the season recovering from surgery on his left knee. Add in a week-long hospital stay for Mike Bobo during fall camp and his lingering health issues throughout the year, and you get a program with some obstacles to overcome. Despite this systemic upheaval and regression indicators, I predicted the Rams to go 8-4. My predictions went 5-7. The Rams went 3-9. My heart was 0-12.

The Coaching Staff

Courtesy of Mile High Sports
This year provides my favorite football team with some stability - whether that is a blessing or a curse is yet to be determined. The coaching staff remains mostly intact with just three coaches moving onto different opportunities - strength and conditioning coach Ryan Davis was lured away by Maryland, safeties coach Eric Lewis was hired on by Boston College, and wide receivers coach Alvis Whitted took the same role for the Green Bay Packers. The biggest and most worrisome of these departures is that of Whitted, arguably the best wide receiver coach in NCAA football. Whitted is a gifted recruiter and a wide receiver whisperer, having recruited and coached the likes of Rashard Higgins, Michael Gallup, Preston Williams, and Bisi Johnson. A former NFL receiver, Whitted was able to deftly craft his receiving corps into NFL-quality players. With freakishly talented Warren Jackson set to make a statement and a glut of incoming talent (including Auburn transfer Nate Craig-Myers and several highly regarded true freshmen), recently promoted Joe Cox hopes to continue the run of wide receiver success in Fort Collins.

The Offense

Courtesy of
The program stability extends to the roster, as well. Collin Hill returns this season with the one thing that has avoided him most of his career - his health. Hill has been the hope for this program for a few years now, but has been unable to string together a full season of starts. His rehabilitation from his last injury is complete and he has been taking the #1 snaps all through the summer. Hill attended the Manning Passing Academy over the summer and the reports were encouraging. Chris Mortensen confirmed that Hill was a standout among the attendees and is a player to watch going forward. If Hill plays as well as his lettuce looks, he will be a top 10 quarterback in college football. The potential has always been there, the man has shown flashes, and 2019 would be a great time to showcase his capabilities for a full season. Should something befall Hill, the Rams have a solid backup in Patrick O'Brien, a Nebraska transfer who was originally recruited by CSU. Still, the offensive success of this unit will follow the trajectory of QB1. The trajectory of QB1 will follow the successes of the offensive line - a unit that struggled to control the line of scrimmage in 2018. The Rams need to be better at the point of attack if they want to put points on the board. They hope that new giant left tackle TJ Storment (6'-7", 320 lbs) will clear running lanes and hold a pocket for their quarterback. This team definitely has the firepower to score points. Marcus McElroy and Marvin Kinsey will be the thunder/lightning combo in the backfield. The aforementioned receiving corps is deep and skilled. Cameron Butler, Trey McBride, and Griffin Hammer are a formidable trio of pass catchers at the tight end position. Will there be enough improvement along the line to let the skill positions run?

The Defense

Courtesy of Rashad Ajayi
Despite the return of a healthy Collin Hill, the success of this program will be dictated by how well the defense can improve over the previous seasons. Two years ago, the late game defensive breakdowns inhibited the Ram's ability to move from good to great. Last year, the defense was nothing short of awful -- unable to put any pressure on the quarterback while getting gashed for big play after big play. A bright spot from the deep darkness of 2018 was Rashad Ajayi. A sophomore cornerback, Ajayi might be the best player on the defensive side of the ball. As a true freshman, Ajayi started all 12 games and was the best and most consistent part of the Rams secondary. Ajayi was so much better than his cohorts that opposing teams basically ignored his side of the field, picking apart whoever was playing the opposite side. A more experienced pair of starting safeties (Jamal Hicks and local kid Logan Stewart) and better athleticism at the cornerback position are defensive coordinator John Jancek's solution to limit the big plays that plagued this squad last year. The secondary could be the best in the Mountain West Conference, but it would not matter if the front seven does not take a positive step this year. Copying a sentence from the paragraph on the offense: the Rams need to be better at the point of attack. I could point to any of those 2018 losses and show you play after play where the opposing offensive lines moved the Ram defensive front wherever they wished. This backwards leaning defense must disappear if the Rams hope to turn the corner.

The Schedule

The Ram's schedule does not do them any favors. They start the non-conference slate with the new Mel Tucker version of CU that still includes Heisman hopeful in Laviska Shenault and third year starting quarterback in Steven Montez.

The non-conference schedule continues with a winnable game at home against Western Illinois.

Arkansas was horrible last year and suffered a loss in Canvas Stadium to the eventual 3-9 Rams. The Razorbacks will be amped up for their revenge game in their house.

The final non-conference game brings high-flying Rockets from Toledo to Fort Collins.

Conference play begins with arguably the best Mountain West team in Utah State.

San Diego State heads to Colorado, where it will inevitably blizzard but yet the perfect weather patrons of San Diego will still rush for 300 yards and throw for another 300.

New Mexico was the only team behind the Rams in the Mountain Division last season. Rams should be good enough to win this game on the road.

Fresno State won the West Division of the Mountain West Conference, then proceeded to beat Boise State (what's that like?) in the Mountain West Conference Championship game. In Boise. On the Smurf Turf. It will be tough to beat the Bulldogs on the road.

UNLV continues their poor run in football.

Air Force and Wyoming are rivalry games that NEED to result in trophies coming back to CSU's campus.

CSU has never beaten Boise State in football. Ever.

The Predictions

After last years flop, any bowl game will be a great goal for this squad. More importantly, Mike Bobo is 2-10 versus CU/Wyoming/Air Force. He is 0-4 against CU and 1-3 against both Wyoming and Air Force. His only victories in these rivalry games came in year one with the leftovers of McElwain's recruits. If this team ends up below .500 without a victory against one of those three schools, Mike Bobo might be looking for a new gig. I sure hope that is not the case. Prove me wrong, Rams!! 

WeekOpponentPredictionResultFlick's Picks
1Colorado (Denver)LCU 52 - CSU 311 - 0
2Western IllinoisWCSU 38 - WIU 132 - 0
3at ArkansasLUA 55 - CSU 343 - 0
4ToledoWUT 41 - CSU 353 - 1
5at Utah StateLUSU 34 - CSU 244 - 1
6San Diego StateLSDSU 24 - CSU 105 - 1
7at New MexicoW
9at Fresno StateL
12Air ForceW
13at WyomingW
14Boise StateL

Final regular season record: 6-6

Week 1 - CU

In the current CSU losing streak in the Rocky Mountain Showdown, the Rams have lost by 3 (2015 OT game), 37 (2016 hot disaster game), 14 (2017 offensive pass interference game), 32 (2018 domination game), and now 21 (2019 first half hope game). Outside of the first RMS under Mike Bobo in 2015, this game has not been competitive. Even the 14 point loss in 2017 felt like a larger point spread than the scoreboard indicated. Naturally, my prognostication for the Rams was bleak. I had predicted a loss. I had predicted a CU blowout.

Courtesy of CSU
And then the first half happened. After nearly forcing a punt on their opening possession, CU scored a touchdown on their opening drive to take the first lead of the game. The predictions started to become reality and we were six minutes into the game. Fortunately, the Rams responded immediately with a quick six play drive that resulted in a 39 yard touchdown pass from Collin Hill to freshman Dante Wright. Tie ball game. The Rams defense then forced a punt. WHAT WAS HAPPENING?! The following drive ended with a spectacular interception in the end zone for a CU touchback. The Buffs drove down the field, but the defense held them to a field goal. The next possession, CSU put on an offensive clinic, marching down the field and scoring a touchdown on a Warren Jackson reception. For the first time since who knows when, the Colorado State University football team had a lead against the hated Buffaloes (actual name: bison) from Boulder. CU would take back the lead with another touchdown drive, but CSU responded with a touchdown drive of their own. With four minutes and two seconds left in the first half, my Rams had a lead and I truly believed that a victory was possible. WHAT WAS HAPPENING?!!

The Buffs scored another touchdown right before the half expired and the Rams had two straight turnovers to start the second half, but CSU was in a position to compete and win for three quarters of that game. That fact by itself is more than we had seen the past four iterations of that game. Yes, the Rams lost by 21. No, the Rams did not cover the spread. But there were a ton of positives to take with us on our midnight ride home.

The positives: 

  • Playing without Marcus McElroy (ankle), Marvin Kinsey and Jaylen Thomas moved the ball easily behind the best offensive line performance that we have seen since Will Friend left. From our vantage point in the southeast corner of the lower bowl, running plays looked like they had resulted in minimal to no gain - yet the running backs had followed the big uglies for gains of 5 or 6 yards. We could see holes developing and the line was clearly moving downhill off the snap. Let's hope this continues to improve as the season progresses. 
  • In addition to his ball-carrying responsibilities, Kinsey looked dangerous catching the ball out of the backfield. 
  • Collin Hill looked composed and competent. 
  • Warren Jackson looked like the weapon we saw in Tuscaloosa in 2017 when he scored two touchdowns against Alabama. Freakishly tall and athletic, Jackson appears to be the next big thing to come out of Wide Receiver U. 
  • Dante Wright will make some plays this year. The true freshman had a receiving and rushing touchdown and clearly has some high-level speed. He will be fun to watch these next few years. 
  • Tackling had been a major issue the past few seasons and looked markedly improved (with the fourth quarter being the notable exception). Players actually wrapped up the ball carrier instead of trying to knock them down and bouncing off like a ping-pong ball. 
  • Big plays were mostly eliminated. CU did have a few large gains, but the story of the previous years were the explosive, game-changing 60 yard touchdowns that just broke the will and spirit of the CSU squad. Those did not happen this year. 
  • The tight end group looked stacked. Trey McBride and Cameron Butler were consistently open as check-down options for Hill and they ran the ball violently. These two will hopefully provide matchup problems for the remaining games. 

The negatives:

  • The defense just crumbled in the second half. CU ended up with 475 yards of offensive and 52 points to go along with it. For what is considered to be a bottom-tier PAC-12 team, that was too many of both. 
  • Mike Bobo's post-game comments on the refs, which were unnecessary and looked like whining.
  • The response to the refs comment was as bad if not worse. Bobo clearly did not blame the loss on the refs, but a man beaten five straight times by the same opponent was frustrated and those frustrations bubbled up. Again - Bobo's comments before and after the popularly quoted ref statement was that CSU got beat, citing poor discipline and costly mistakes. 
  • Speaking of costly mistakes: the Rams had a 4:0 turnover ratio. Your chances of winning a football game with those numbers are nil. 
  • The public address announcer inside of Broncos Stadium at Mile High was atrocious. The starting tailback for the Rams is named Marvin Kinsey Jr. Despite the fact that he was a starter, he was projected to be a focal point in the CSU offense, and his name is fairly easy to pronounce, the idiot PA guy called him "Kinsley". All game. 
  • The same moron with a mic frequently referred to Collin Hill as "Collin Hall". Arguably the most recognizable name on the CSU roster, the starting quarterback of the squad, and a last name you most definitely should not mispronounce, getting incorrectly called out over the speakers. Look at a freaking program before the game, guy. 

Up Next - Week 2: 

The Rams host the Western Illinois Leathernecks (what?) on Saturday. The Rams offense should have their way with this FCS opponent. As long as the defense is somewhat competent, it should be a Ram victory.

Week 2 - WIU

Well, that was needed... after nearly a year since the last CSU football victory (the last one coming on October 13, 2018), the Rams dominated their FCS foe from the opening kickoff and evened their record at 1-1. More importantly, the weather at Canvas Stadium was gorgeous as the hot afternoon sun slid behind the press box for most of the game. Most importantly, my predictions have gone 2-0. 

As we settled into our seats before kickoff and the Leathernecks deferred, I told Keith that the Rams should return the opening kickoff for a touchdown to get things started the right way. The opening kickoff was a touchback, so my dreams of a quick start evaporated. Ten game seconds later, Dante Wright was sprinting into the end zone with the football to cap off a meticulous and grinding one play, 75 yard touchdown drive. The Rams would never relinquish the lead and would cruise to an easy 38-13 victory. 

The positives:

  • Marvin Kinsey Jr. and Dante Wright are a threat to score at any moment. Each player had two touchdowns on the day - two touchdown receptions for Kinsey and one touchdown reception and one touchdown run for Wright. 
  • The control of the line of scrimmage on the offensive side of the ball continued from week one's loss. The offense was incredibly efficient and the big uglies did their job - creating wide running lanes for the backs and really limiting pressure on Collin Hill dropbacks. 
  • The offense is just fine. The Rams finished with 582 total yards with a healthy 47/53 pass/run split. The running game averaged over 5 yards per carry and they averaged over 12 yards per pass attempt. This was another well-called and well-executed offensive performance. 
  • Team tackling was better, specifically in the secondary. Jamal Hicks drew my ire repeatedly last year for trying to make the big hit only to let his man go for a long score. He clearly has readjusted his game to wrap up ball carriers and bring them to the ground. 
  • The defensive effort lasted the entire game. At the final whistle, CSU had accumulated seven sacks and ten tackles for a loss. The front seven provided the necessary push to pressure the WIU quarterback and stop plays in the backfield. This trend will need to continue on the road in Fayetteville next week. 
  • This team is full of fighters. Look at this touchdown reception for EJ Scott. He caught the ball at the six yard line. He was wrapped up at the five yard line. Then his offensive linemen and Marvin Kinsey and Adam Prentice joined the fray. The ball popped out, but not before Scott had crossed the goal line. Extra effort like that does not have a huge impact on a game like this one, but that mentality will be huge for games against the quality teams on the rest of the schedule. 

The negatives:

  • TURNOVERS - once again the Rams lost the turnover battle. The Rams fumbled four times, losing two of them. One of the lost fumbles came on the first rushing attempt for Marcus McElroy, who sat out last week due to an ankle injury. With as well as Kinsey has been playing, the other running backs cannot afford to make mistakes if they wish to stay on the field. Fortunately, CSU did force their first defensive turnover on the year when Jan-Phillip Bombek had a strip sack of Connor Sampson and fell on the loose ball. 
  • I did not see Champ Bailey in Canvas Stadium. However, I did see his wife and Keevan at Wing Shack after the game. By the way - the true freshman had a solid game, recording four total tackles including a sack and a tackle for a loss. 
    Courtesy of @JoelDreessen

Up next - Week 3

The Rams head out to SEC country to complete the home-and-home series with the Razorbacks of Arkansas. Last year's thrilling victory in Canvas Stadium was a highlight of a disappointing Rams season and Arkansas has all the motivation in the world to avenge their 2018 defeat. But the Razorbacks are still bad - they beat Portland State to kick off their season. They won by a touchdown. At home. Against an FCS school. At home. In Fayetteville. At home. They won by seven. At home. Against an FCS school. They followed up that impressive victory by getting thumped by Ol' Miss. I'm not sure what to expect from this game, but I hope the Rams can pull off another SEC win this season.

Week 3 - Arkansas

Full disclosure: I watched very little of the game this week due to a prior engagement... literally. Matt and Sophie closed up the engagement portion of their relationship with a kick-ass, scenic, beautiful, and fun wedding on Saturday. While I did catch a little bit of the first half on my phone, the second half happened as I stood next to my brother being proud as hell of him and his new wifey.

The outcome of the game was not what we wanted, but I am happy to report that I am a solid 3-0 on my picks this season. I would rather be wrong... 

The positives: 

  • The offense continued to click. The Rams were tied at 34 with an SEC team on the road with a little over a quarter remaining in the ballgame. Granted, it is not a good SEC team but still... 
  • Marvin Kinsey is the real deal. Kinsey ended up with 20 carries for 180 yards, including a 75 yard touchdown run on the second play of the game. 
  • Patrick O'Brien's first drive. 

The negatives:

  • This: 

  • No one knows the extent of the Hill injury, but we do know that he will not play this upcoming week. I just feel awful for this guy - he cannot have worse luck on the football field. 
  • More freaking turnovers. Kinsey had two fumbles, both of which were recovered by the Hogs. 
  • The fourth quarter.

Up Next - Week 4

The Ram's schedule does not get any easier to close out the non-conference slate. The Rockets of Toledo come to Fort Collins for a nationally televised late game on Saturday. Toledo is 1-1, but just whipped Murray State 45-0. Their loss came at the hands of another SEC team - the Kentucky Wildcats. I assume this will be another high scoring affair as CSU's defense has faltered late against quality opponents. 

Week 4 - Toledo

So we are doing this again, huh? The Toledo Rockets came into Fort Collins late on Saturday night to finish up the non-conference slate for my Rams and boy did that game disappoint. While Toledo is a quality opponent, CSU should beat a MAC team at home. The loss drops the Rams to 1-3 and (most importantly) marks the first of my incorrect predictions this season. I am irate. 

Going into this contest, there was high probability of a shootout with CSU's defense showing limited signs of life this season and a Toledo offense that has accumulated yards and scores with ease over the past calendar year. The first half was surprisingly low scoring, with Toledo holding a 14-13 lead. With an offense that looked good despite playing its backup quarterback, we hoped that maybe the Rams could reverse their disastrous second half trends from this season. 

As ESPN hates the fact that my entire family has season tickets, the game was scheduled to start at 8:15, got delayed until 8:30, and had more penalties and television breaks than normal. As a result, we took a cue from our cranky kid (just one, the other two were fine) and left the game toward the beginning of the third quarter during a stretch of the game when neither team wanted to play defense. When the dust settled at the end of the third quarter, Toledo scored 21 points in the quarter, rushed for over 200 yards in the quarter, and exposed the CSU defense once again. A back and forth battle in the fourth quarter produced drama as the Rams got the ball back down six with 31 seconds left in the game. A few plays later, the fate of the game rested on a single play from the 25 yard line - Patrick O'Brien connected with EJ Scott and he was brought down... at the 2 yard line. Toledo wins. 

The positives:

  • The offense still looked good with Patrick O'Brien at the helm. While his ability to throw on the move is significantly less than Collin Hill's, he made some good throws throughout the game. As a unit, they put up 35 points and generated 694 yards of offense. That should be sufficient to win a football game. 
  • Marvin. Kinsey. Junior. Or as we like to say after the CU announcer debacle: Marvlin. Kinsley. Junlior. Whatever you call him, the dude can tote the rock. Twenty three carries. Two hundred forty-six yards. Two touchdowns. The man is on a mission in his senior season to show that he is worthy of a look at the next level. 
  • Warren Jackson frequently made the Toledo defensive backs look foolish, either making a catch over a scrambling cornerback or forcing a scrambling cornerback to commit pass interference.
  • The offense only had one turnover - a Patrick O'Brien interception late in the first half. The running backs and receivers held onto the ball and limited the opportunities for Toledo to turn the tide of the contest with a takeaway. 
  • This picture:
Courtesy of Colorado State University

The negatives: 

  • The defense (if you can even call it that) was atrocious. Toledo ran at will, both with running back Bryant Koback (a Kentucky Wildcat transfer who amassed 228 yards and 3 TDs on 19 carries) and quarterback Mitchell Guadagni (119 yards, 1 TD, 12 carries). 
  • A bad defense can totally redeem itself if it has an ability to generate turnovers. CSU cannot get a turnover to save their lives (or John Jancek's job, currently). 
  • There were four, yes four, illegal formation penalties on the Rams for having more than four players off the line of scrimmage. Four times the Rams pushed themselves backwards because someone did not know where to stand. 
  • This was not a disciplined football game on either side. The Rams had an additional 7 penalties on top of the illegal formation penalties for a total of 11 penalties for 82 yards. Team discipline on the field has been an issue throughout the Mike Bobo era and it continues to frustrate the Ram faithful. 
  • At the end of the half, Nate Craig-Myers caught a Patrick O'Brien pass at the 2 yard line as time expired. At the end of the game, EJ Scott caught a Patrick O'Brien pass at the 2 yard line as time expired. In both of those situations, (a) Patrick O'Brien needs to get the ball to his receivers over the goal line and (b) the receivers should not be running short of the end zone. Little details make the difference between a win and a loss and the same mistake happened twice in one game. 
  • We forgot the football-shaped cookies for our tailgate at our house. 
  • I ate like three of those sadness cookies as time expired. The Rams' poor play is going to make me gain weight.  
  • The Arkansas team that thumped the Rams in the fourth quarter last week lost at home to the former doormat of the Mountain West Conference, the San Jose State Spartans. 
  • The Rams lost at home to Toledo. 
  • The Rams might now be the doormat of the Mountain West Conference. 

Up Next - Week 5

Conference play begins this week with a trip to Logan to face the other Aggies in the conference - Utah State. This past weekend, Utah State won on the road against conference foe San Diego State. To increase the degree of difficulty, Marvin Kinsey, Warren Jackson, Ellison Hubbard, and Toby McBride are all questionable/doubtful for this upcoming game.  I have a hard time seeing how the Rams leave Utah with a victory. 

To be quite honest, my relatively tempered expectations for the Rams this year might not be able to be met. Our defensive play will not allow us to be competitive as we face the other "State" schools (Utah, Boise, Fresno, San Diego) or rivalry schools (Air Force, Wyoming). The two other downtrodden programs that we face this year (New Mexico, UNLV) might be our only chances at victories the rest of this season. That is pathetic. Would Bobo be able to survive another 3-9 season? I would venture to guess that he would not. Will Bobo make some changes mid-season to try and right the ship? The obvious answer is to fire John Jancek, but I do not know if that will help. Who on the staff could slide into the defensive coordinator role and make an impact? I have no idea. Regardless, Bobo's future in Fort Collins now rests on the performance of his coaches and players over the next 8 games. 

Week 5 - Utah State

The Ram faithful asked for some semblance of a defense. We got it. The Ram faithful asked for turnovers. We got those. The Ram faithful asked for a road victory as 23.5 point underdogs in Logan. We got greedy.

The defense showed some resiliency for the first time this season. As the teams went into the locker room at halftime, CSU had already doubled their forced turnovers FOR THE SEASON with a fumble recovery and an interception. While the interception was returned for a touchdown, the fumble recovery resulted in 8 yards, a failed 4th down attempt, and a turnover on downs after receiving the ball on the Utah State 35 yard line. In what has become commonplace this season, the Rams failed to do the little things necessary to win a football game. The concern at halftime was that despite the fact that CSU was winning the turnover battle, CSU was still losing by a field goal. They were right there. Within striking distance. With a defense who looked energetic and was flowing to the ball and was not making the same boneheaded positional mistakes of the previous weeks. That dang word reared its ugly head -- hope.

The Aggies got the ball to start the second half and they looked to do what every other team has done to the Rams this season; make adjustments and run away with the game. The second play of the second half was yet another CSU takeaway, a Keevan Bailey interception at the Utah State 30 yard line. Again, the offense sputtered in three plays and took the three points to tie the game. Just minutes into the third quarter and the Rams had generated only 10 points off of three turnovers on the Utah State side of the field. The little things...

The next Utah State drive was efficient as Jordan Love drove his team to the CSU 1 yard line. The sloppy, rainy weather decided to inject itself into the ballgame and CSU jumped on a dropped snap for their fourth forced turnover of the game. How did the Ram offense respond to this gluttony of turnovers? On the next eight drives:

  • Three plays, four yards - PUNT
  • Three plays, three yards - PUNT
  • One play, thirty-five yards - FUMBLE
  • Three plays, one penalty, ten yards - PUNT
  • Four plays, nineteen yards - FUMBLE
  • One play, four yards - FUMBLE RETURNED FOR A TOUCHDOWN
  • Three plays, one yard - PUNT
  • Five plays, eighteen yards - TURNOVER ON DOWNS
Ball game. 

In the end, the Rams covered the spread through a positive turnover margin and a decent offensive first half. For the first time this season, the defense was good enough to win the game and the offense in the second half let them down. 

The positives:

  • THE DEFENSE FINALLY FORCED SOME TURNOVERS!! While the weather most certainly played into this factor, the Rams defense took advantage of some sloppy play from the Aggies and registered four total takeaways in the contest (2 fumble recoveries, 2 interceptions). 
  • Andre Neal and Keevan Bailey (along with the rest of the secondary) had their best game of the season. 

  • Nate Craig-Myers showed flashes of what got him recruited by Auburn out of high school. 
  • I correctly predicted that the Rams would lose this game, putting my season prediction record at 4-1. 

The negatives: 

  • The run game was atrocious. The front seven of the Aggies controlled the line of scrimmage and held the Rams to a measly 2.26 yards per carry. Ooof. 
  • The offensive production in the second half. I cannot say whether it was play calling or execution, but those second half drives listed above were garbage. Not only could they not score in the second half, the Rams could not even gain enough yardage for a first down. Ugly. 
  • Marvin Kinsey has had an incredible season in 2019. Yet he was not on the field for the final drives after coughing up the ball on two consecutive offensive plays in the second half. If you cannot secure the ball, you cannot see the field. (Granted, one of the fumbles sure looked like his forward progress had been completely stopped before Utah State stripped the ball and took it to the house.)
  • Terry Frei criticized Ram fans on Twitter for blaming Patrick O'Brien for the loss (and rightly so - it was not completely O'Brien's fault that the offense went belly-up in the second half). 
  • But that does not mean that O'Brien does not deserve some criticism. Collin Hill backed up his physical talents with quality decision-making and smooth transitions through his progressions. More often than not, Hill made smart decisions with the football that resulted in productive plays. When you lose your stud starting quarterback to injury, there is bound to be a reduction in those traits and we are seeing that with O'Brien. Late in the game, there were two plays that come to mind - both involve Marcus McElroy sliding out of the backfield as an underneath receiver. The first play, McElroy was wide open - not a defender within 15 yards of him and standing right at the sticks. O'Brien did not make it through his progressions and threw the ball incomplete. A few plays later, O'Brien makes it through his progressions and dumps the ball off to McElroy a few yards short of the first down. Except this time, McElroy was bracketed by two defenders and was immediately tackled. 
  • The second half offense.
  • Also, the offensive effort in the second half. 
  • Did I mention how bad the second half offense was?!! 

Up Next - Week 6

Homecoming!! ESPN decided that the best way to bring Rams back to campus was to schedule an 8:00 kickoff. Blech.

This week, the Rams host San Diego State for the annual "Stripe the Stadium" game. Our section (239) is green, thankfully, as I own far more green CSU apparel than white CSU apparel. As for the football game - whatever. The Aztecs won a barn-burner (final score 6-0) against Weber State to open the season, then won back-to-back road games at UCLA and at New Mexico State before losing to those same Aggies of Utah State in week 4. SDSU will be coming to Fort Collins fresh off a bye week and I do not see this ending well. My original prediction was that the Rams would lose this game and I will stick by that this week.

At least we crush the tailgate each week... #GoRams 

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Week 6 - San Diego State

Boise State.    Wyoming.    Nevada.    Utah State.    Air Force.    Colorado.    Arkansas.    Toledo.    Utah State.    San Diego State.

Ten teams. Ten games. Ten Football Bowl Series (FBS) opponents.

Zero Ram victories.

The year – 2018. The month – October. The date – Saturday, the 13th. The location – Canvas Stadium. The opponent – the lowly University of New Mexico. The result – a tight 20-18 CSU victory. That game is the last time that the Colorado State University vanquished an FBS foe. It was the worst of times; it was the worst of times.

When Jim McElwain hopped on that private jet to Gainesville, he walked away from the 2014 season with a 10-2 regular season record and a program on the rise. Mike Bobo walked into a dream situation, immediately improved our recruiting rankings, and coached players onto NFL rosters. But the program has regressed overall. The team lacks discipline and the offense and defense can never align their good performances. As much as I like Bobo (he comes across as a genuinely good dude), I am starting to believe that this is the final season under his control.

This weekend was another brick in our wall of frustration.

We left the game early in the fourth quarter. Shout out to ESPN for the late kick time. Shout out to my kids for taking naps on the way up so we could make it that long. The game was still underway as we cruised down I-25 and I flipped the radio to listen to Brian Roth call the rest of the game. It did not take long for me to realize that listening to the game was not bringing me joy, so I switched it back to the XM radio. The first song that was playing?

You are correct - Nick, Joe, and Kevin. I am a sucker. A sucker that keeps coming back for more crappy football.

The positives: 

  • My record predicting games (5-1!!). 
  • For the second week in a row, the defense played well enough to win the game. The Ram defense limited the Aztecs to a total of 238 yards of offense, including less than 100 yards rushing. On third down, the Aztecs were a putrid 3 of 14. THAT SHOULD BE GOOD ENOUGH TO WIN.
  • After several games of offensive struggles, Bobo finally tried something different. Unfortunately, I will be covering this more in depth in the next section. 
  • I'm running out of things to put in this section. 
  • Traffic going southbound from Fort Collins to Arvada is free-flowing and light at 11:30 on a Saturday night. 

The negatives: 

  • The entire offensive performance. For the second straight game, the defense played at a level where a win should be expected yet the offense prohibited that from happening. 
  • CSU ended the night with 18 rushing yards on 25 attempts. Hold on while I do some quick math... that works out to approximately 0.7 yards per attempt. One more quick calc... yeah, that's bad. As Robert and I discussed at the game, the quarterback play is partially to blame for the rushing ineptitude. Clearly, teams do not worry about the passing threat of Patrick O'Brien and the defense compresses toward the line of scrimmage. This compacted defensive alignment clogs running lanes and makes blocking for offensive linemen, tight ends, and full backs that much harder. Some sort of downfield threat needs to be established to keep the linebackers and secondary from creeping. 
  • This is becoming repetitive, but the turnovers need to stop. Despite the solid defensive effort, they were unable to create any turnovers while the offense gave the ball away four times. Another round of quick calculations... that is a 4:0 turnovers made to turnovers created ratio. More calcs... this is also not good. 
  • Two of those interceptions came in back-to-back passing attempts from Justice McCoy, who Bobo inserted into the game late in the third quarter in an attempt to generate something out of his offensive unit. While I appreciate that Bobo heard our pleas to try something different with the offense, I do not appreciate the effort by McCoy to make us look stupid. 
  • In the middle of the second quarter, CSU received a punt down 10-3. Dante Wright gathered the ball and ran backwards. A personal foul penalty was assessed during the play and the Rams started at their own 3 yard line. A few plays later, the Rams had marched all the way down the field and had 1st and goal at the 5 yard line. The first down play was a 4 yard Marvin Kinsey run. Second and goal at the one. Marvin Kinsey run up the middle for no gain. Third and goal at the one. Marcus McElroy run up the middle for no gain. Fourth and goal at the one. Marcus McElroy run up the middle for a loss of one. Turnover on downs. Awesome. 
  • My faith in this team going forward. 

Up Next - Week 7

At the beginning of the season, I predicted the Rams would win a road game in Albuquerque in October. I still believe this is possible, not because of my trust in the Rams to win a game but because of New Mexico's ability to actually be worse than CSU.

Shall we be positive for a moment? We shall. The crew of people on the Rams Creative team are so freaking talented. The graphics and videos that come out of that group are amazing.