Wednesday, September 22, 2021

2021 Rams Recap - Week 3 - HOLY TOLEDO!

Mere hours after I depressingly rambled about searching for a victory on the remaining CSU schedule, the Rams rolled into the Glass Bowl and delivered an improbable victory against a team that went toe-to-toe with the number 8 team in the country the week prior. I guess that's why you play the games... 

While the victory was surprising, the way that the game was won was not. 

The run defense: 

The Ram front seven, the strength of the team last year, dominated the Toledo Rockets in the trenches. Toledo finished the contest with 21 yards of rushing. On 28 attempts. For an average of 0.8 yards per attempt. LESS THAN A YARD PER CARRY. That is absurd and a huge indication of how well the defensive line and linebackers played on Saturday. In their previous games this year, the Rockets rushed for 205 yards on 39 carries against Norfolk State (5.3 yards per carry) and 124 yards on 30 carries against Notre Dame (4.1 yards per carry). According to these numbers, we are over four times better than #8 Notre Dame. Math don't lie. We knew that the front seven had a chance to be really good and they proved it against the Rockets. It was the secondary that we were concerned about...

The pass defense:

Our secondary has been the Achilles heal of the defense for two seasons now. Poor positioning, bad communication, the inability for the DBs to turn their head to the ball as it comes their way. All of these flaws were setting up a blowout loss to Toledo, a team that throws the ball effectively. While Carter Bradley did not necessarily have a bad day, our secondary kept him in check. Bradley posted his worst statistical passing game of the year while still throwing for over 250 yards with a completion percentage above 60%. They just could not get into the end zone. Was the success of the secondary due to the insertion of Jack Howell into the starting lineup? Howell ended up with 9 tackles and a pass defensed as part of his MWC Freshman of the Week winning performance. A big art of the success against the passing game can be attributed to those guys up front. Six sacks. Ten tackles for a loss. Two quarterback hurries. Two forced fumbles on Bradley. He just could not get comfortable in the pocket long enough to deliver the ball downfield. Huge props to the line and linebackers for applying pressure to alleviate the concerns behind them. 

The special teams: 

One thing has been consistent this season - our punter is solid. Stonehouse put up another game of big numbers, punting 6 times with an average slightly over 52 yards per punt. The guy just does his job and does it well. The bonus special teams play was a dude that I love cheering for - Thomas Pannunzio. Pannunzio exemplifies the type of player that Sonny Lubick used to recruit, develop, and dominate with. Originally a walk-on from Pueblo South, Pannunzio was placed on scholarship last year after showing his value as a Swiss Army knife for the Rams. Pannunzio can play wide receiver, defensive back, and special teams. He has been a steady hand returning both kicks and punts. He plays with a passion and determination unmatched on the team. This week, he had his moment. Knotted at 6 with three minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Ram defense forced a punt. Pannunzio received the punt at the 30 yard line and wiggled his way downfield a special teams touchdown. Love to see those try-hard guys have success for my favorite team. 

I would be remiss if I did not mention the Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week - Cayden Camper. After a rough start to the season, Camper came up big time in the win over the Rockets. Camper was 5 for 5 on FG with makes from 31, 42, 29, 47, and 23. His last three field goals came in the fourth quarter, icing the game for the Rams. 

The offense:

More math: 7 points for the Pannunzio punt return touchdown plus 15 points off the foot of Cayden Camper equals... all the points we got. The win came despite the offensive concerns bleeding into this game. Obviously the Rams moved the ball well enough to get into field goal range, but the same question marks arose this past weekend. The running game was healthy. David Bailey earned 132 yards on the ground. The offensive line looked more cohesive and effective this game. There was some visible improvement from the SDST and Vandy contests in that regard. 

But I have never in my life seen a game where one player (a tight end, for that matter) has accounted for 99.1% of all receiving yards and their team still won. That is what we saw with Trey McBride as he added to his NFL draft highlight reel on his way to becoming the next #NextLevelRam. McBride's 109 yards on 9 catches was a lone highlight of the passing game. 

Centeio continues to have some sort of dirt on Addazio to remain in the starting spot. Fails the eye test. Fails the film test. And the numbers don't lie. 

Declining completion percentages concern me. His lack of touch concerns me. His declining yardage concerns me. The Rams are not going to hold all their opponents to 6 points. The quarterback and receiving corps need to provide better production in order to convert Saturday's win into a successful season. What I have seen from Centeio this year and last has not convinced me that he is the answer. At what point do Addazio and Budmayr realize that the future of this program is in the hands of Evan Olaes and not Todd Centeio? 

Up next: 

#5 Iowa at Kinnick Stadium. The line opened at CSU +22. That's a big number. But so was CSU +14.5 at Toledo. 

Flick's Picks

I was not expecting CSU to win this game either before the season started or as the ball was kicked off to start the game. After weeks 1 and 2, I was not even expecting CSU to cover the 14.5 point spread. Boy howdy, was I wrong. I hope my wrongness continues throughout the remainder of the season, except against New Mexico, Utah State, and Hawaii. 

WeekOpponentPredictionResultFlick's Picks
1South Dakota StateLSDSU 42 - CSU 231 - 0
2VanderbiltWVU 24 - CSU 211 - 1
3at ToledoLCSU 22 - Tol 61 - 2
4at IowaL
6San Jose StateL
7at New MexicoW
8at Utah StateW
9Boise StateL
10at WyomingL
11Air ForceW
12at HawaiiW

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