Thursday, December 10, 2020

2020 Rams Recap - Week 7 - WHAT'S THIS? WHAT'S THIS?

The One In Which I Turn On My Television and Football Appears

What's this? What's this?
There's Rammies everywhere
What's this?
There's footballs in the air
What's this?
I can't believe my eyes
I must be dreaming
Wake up, Jack, this isn't fair
What's this?
- Jack Skellington, presumably, upon turning on CBS Sports Network around 5:00 last Saturday

Real Live Football

Let me begin by stating that watching the Rams lose is still better than their games getting cancelled. It truly is. For several hours on Saturday, I was engrossed in an on-field battle, questioning decisions, cheering for McElroy touchdown runs, explaining penalties to my kids, yelling about missed holding calls, and watching an actual CSU football game. It was glorious. 
The first quarter was dominated by the defenses, with only a single SDSU touchdown on the scoreboard. The second quarter was a whirlwind of scoring, highlighted by TWO MORE special teams touchdowns for the opposition. After kicking a 43 yard field goal to make it 7-3 early in the second quarter, Jordan Byrd returned the ensuing kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown. CSU gets the ball back, goes three and out, then fails to cover BJ Busbee as he sprints 90 yards to make it 20-3 Aztecs (SDSU missed the PAT, if you are wondering how that math works). That's the story of the game. A string of five plays pushed the score from a 4 point deficit to a 17 point deficit and the Rams were in catch-up mode the rest of the game. The good news is that they responded. Two touchdowns from Marcus McElroy (including a 37 yard run where he bounced some defenders) and the Rams were within one score at halftime. 
The second half was about defensive adjustments and no team scored in the third quarter. A couple of Aztec field goals in the fourth padded their lead. 
This season was going to be a big question mark, regardless of COVID sucking the life out of it. We had a new coaching staff coming in to right the wrongs of the previous five years - this was a season of growing pains. In those seasons, the best idea is to look for indicators that improvement is happening. Saturday's game gave us several key glimpses of what to expect from the Rams moving forward: 
  • This team plays hard for Steve Addazio and his staff. Despite the special teams gaffes, this team never shows signs of letting up or resigning to defeat. They scrape and claw the entire game.
  • Chuck Heater's defense has been a bright spot this year. The defensive line and linebackers have been disciplined in their run coverage and tenacious getting to the quarterback. The Rams are generating tackles for losses at a rate we have not seen in Fort Collins since the Sonny days. The secondary remains a concern as teams tend to find open receivers for big plays, but they looked better this past weekend. Hopefully that continues to improve. 
Chuck Heater - Courtesy of CSURams.com

  • I was excited about the Joey Lynch hiring. His last year at Ball State produced an efficient, balanced, and exciting offense. We haven't seen that at all this year. The frequency of run-run-incomplete pass-punt sequences is too high. The run game on 2nd and long has been atrocious (which further confounds me about the play calling). Understandably, the offense succeeds when Dante Wright and Trey McBride are featured in it. However, the offense tends to focus on just those two and neglects the fully-capable Nate Craig-Myers, EJ Scott, and others. 
Joey Lynch - Courtesy of The Coloradoan

  • Building off the offensive concerns - the use of Todd Centeio has been baffling. His surprise start in the first game should have been a sign of QB woes to come. While Patrick O'Brien has not been stellar, he provides the best passing option for the team. I thought that Lynch and company had figured out how to balance the two quarterbacks until Centeio closed out the game down two scores with time ticking away. At that juncture, you need your best passer in the game and that should have been O'Brien. Centeio should be used as a change-of-pace read-option quarterback when a spark or change is needed. Not for long stretches and definitely not to close out a game when we are behind. 
  • CSU has given up five (@&@#%@#*%#$^) special teams touchdowns in the last two games. Two blocked punts and a blocked field goal against Boise. A punt return and a kickoff return against San Diego State. Would you care to guess which phase of football does not have a dedicated coordinator on the Steve Addazio staff? Yeah, Addazio needs to hire a special teams coach immediately. The two special teams TDs for SDSU was the difference in the game. 

Upcoming: Utah State - The Final Game

Utah State is horrible this year. This is a winnable game at home against the lesser Aggies. In fact, one win CSU is a DOUBLE DIGIT FAVORITE. Analyzing the common opponents, the Aggies were throttled by Boise State (as were we), throttled by SDSU (we played the Aztecs hard), and thumped by Fresno State (same here). Their only win on the year is to New Mexico - a team who only has one win of their own against Wyoming - a team we beat to regain the Bronze Boot for a year. Did I mention that we beat Wyoming and that the Bronze Boot is sitting in Fort Collins right now? 

Courtesy of Patrick O'Brien on Twitter

Of course, I expect the game to be cancelled due to COVID within hours of this post hitting the interwebs. Go the Rams. 

WeekOpponentPredictionResultFlick's Picks
1New MexicoWCOVID0 - 0
2at Fresno StateWCSU 17 - FSU 380 - 1
3WyomingLUW 24 - CSU 340 - 2
4at Boise StateLBSU 52 - CSU 211 - 2
5UNLVWCOVID1 - 2
6at Air ForceLCOVID1 - 2
7at San Diego StateLCSU 17 - SDSU 292 - 2
8Utah StateL


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