Friday, November 08, 2019

2019 Ram Recap - Week 5 - Aggies, But the Bad Ones

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 

A post shared by Mike Flick (@flickerbock) on 

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 StateL
7at New MexicoW
9at Fresno StateL
12Air ForceW
13at WyomingW
14Boise StateL

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