Tuesday, November 26, 2019

2019 Ram Recap - Week 13 - W(h)y(?)oming

This may be hard to believe, but the weather in Laramie for a battle over the Bronze Boot was really cold and terrible. Never could have predicted that. Also cold? The Rams offense. While seven points does get you taco's, it rarely is enough to win a football game. And that is exactly what happened. Looking back through the drive summaries of the game, the first half was boring as hell - five punts, a touchdown for each team, and a Wyoming kneel down to end the half tied at seven. The second half was just as lame, but more diverse - four punts, one touchdown, one field goal, one interception, one missed field goal, two turnover on downs, and one sad Wyoming drive to run out the clock.

The Positives:

  • John Jancek's defense played well enough to win the game. They legitimately did. They gave up 17 points to a rival, despite the offense giving Wyoming short fields on one of the touchdown drives. After last year's horrendous start to the Jancek era, his defense has been a strength as this season has progressed. 
  • Warren Jackson remains the best player on the field. Six receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown is pretty pedestrian for Jackson, but he did accomplish a major career milestone in the loss. 
  • As this game was on a Friday night in Laramie, I was not able to drive up to watch it in person. That means that I was able to avoid the cold (20-something degrees at kickoff and falling) and watch from the warmth of my living room. And believe me, I tried everything: 
  • The white pants/white jerseys/white helmets with green bones is such a clean look. 
  • [This was from last week. Still applies.] As you can tell, I am stretching a bit to find positives. I am so damn sick of losing rivalry games. 

The Negatives: 

  • The minuscule chance that CSU could stumble into bowl eligibility evaporated into the cold Wyoming wind. While I did not have much confidence in the Rams' ability to beat a top 25 Boise State, we will now all drive to Fort Collins on Black Friday without any false hope of a possible bowl game. 
  • Last week, the Rams averaged 1.3 yards per carry. Thankfully that number was improved against Wyoming where they averaged... [calculating]...[wait for it]... 1.6 yards per carry. Ugh. 
  • The first Ram offensive drive of the second half started with an incomplete pass followed by a 9 yard scramble by Patrick O'Brien. On third and one near midfield, the Rams called a QB sneak that resulted in no gain. Going for it on fourth down, the Rams reached deep into the playbook to call another QB sneak that resulted in no gain. Turnover on downs. Wyoming would then drive down half the field to score the go-ahead touchdown. The game was effectively over. I love when Bobo gets aggressive on offense. I loved that Bobo went for it on fourth down twice in the opening drive against Air Force. Placing your trust in your team to get the yardage needed to move the sticks is a great motivator. But calling a QB draw on second down and then two straight QB sneaks on third and fourth down was horrible. Wyoming had been all over the run game up to this point - pull something out of your giant offensive brain of yours and give your team a chance. That sequence was frustrating. 
  • Two drives later, the Rams had moved into Wyoming territory with a balanced attack - strong runs from Marcus McElroy and receptions by Trey McBride and Dante Wright got the Rams to the Wyoming 31 yard line. Two incomplete passes in the direction of Warren Jackson (neither was particularly close) and the Rams faced 4th down and 2. Down a touchdown on the road against a bitter rival during the fourth quarter of a freezing cold and windy contest and Mike Bobo elected to try a 50 yard field goal. Maybe the previous fourth down attempt scared him, but this was a chicken decision. What did the Rams have to lose in that scenario. You have a wide receiver who cannot be consistently defended by any cornerback in the Mountain West Conference. You do not have a single play in your playbook to get him the ball? 
  • The Rams have lost 12 straight rivalry games. Twelve straight. If you are a fourth year senior on the football teams of the University of Colorado, the United States Air Force Academy, or the University of Wyoming, you have never experienced a defeat at the hands of the football team from Colorado State University. 

Up Next - Week 14 - The Merciful End:

Bowl eligibility: out the window.

Trophy case: empty.

This season has been a frustrating continuation of the last few years of the Mike Bobo led program. Reports surfaced this week that two bottom-feeder Mountain West Conference teams already have plans to replace their coaches - Bob Davie from the University of New Mexico and Tony Sanchez from UNLV. Will Joe Parker make CSU the third MWC school to make a change? I know that the buyout money is in question, but I do not understand how Parker can look at what is transpiring with the football program and think that more time is the solution. The status quo is not working.

Our realtor always talks about the street optics of a property. If you are driving by a house that is on the market and you do not like what you see from the street, your chances of looking inside the house lessen considerably. College athletics are the street optics of university systems. CSU is a fantastic research university with a top 5 veterinary program and general academic excellence across the varying colleges. But the outward-facing, prominent public view of the university comes through the athletic department and specifically the big sports - football and basketball. When Bobo arrived on campus, CSU was positioning for something bigger - an invitation to a Power 5 conference. With the new on-campus stadium in the works, a run of success under Jim McElwain, and improved recruiting across the board, CSU football was on its way to being a top selection for any conference realignment or expansion.

In the last five years, CSU has improved our national academic rankings in most categories, has continued to expand our research capabilities, has made incredible strides to modernize and further beautify the campus, and has continued to be a leading high education system in the western United States. The athletic department has made strides as well - I can honestly say that at least 11 of the 13 varsity sports that are not football are trending upwards:

  • Women's volleyball continues their dominance of the MWC, currently ranked #11 in the country after going undefeated in conference play this season,
  • Men's cross country entered the NCAA regional meet with a national ranking of #25
  • Women's cross country has gone from a non-contender to finishing 4th at the MWC championship race,
  • Men's and women's track and field are both the defending indoor and outdoor MWC champions, 
  • Women's soccer is coming off their best season in program history (12-5-3) earning their first invite to the MWC tournament,
  • Women's softball spent portions of last season ranked in the top 25 last season and participated in the NCAA tournament, 
  • Men's golf is ranked in the top 25 and won their last three tournaments of 2019,
  • Women's golf produced record scoring during this past fall season,
  • Women's basketball had one down year last season among a run of solid MWC representation (and my favorite coach at the university),
  • Men's basketball is trending up with the return of Niko Medved and the talented young players that have followed him to Fort Collins. 
  • The remaining two programs (women's swimming and diving and women's tennis) may be trending upwards, I am not well informed team.  

And then there is the football program. The most prominent and visible and recognizable program in the department is in shambles with no signs of recovery. Three of the five power conferences will be renegotiating their media rights between 2022 and 2024, potentially shifting the college landscape similar to what we saw in 2011. That time frame worries me. Will the successes of the CSU athletic department and the academic achievements be enough to offset the doormat that is the football program? Or, can the football team do in the next two years what the other CSU programs have done to put the university in a position to be considered for any and all realignment options? At the current trajectory, I do not see that happening.

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 MexicoWCSU 35 - UNM 216 - 1
9at Fresno StateLCSU 41 - FSU 316 - 2
10UNLVWCSU 37 - UNLV 177 - 2

12Air ForceWAFA 38 - CSU 217 - 3
13at WyomingWWYO 17 - CSU 77 - 4
14Boise StateL

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