I entered this past week with more optimism that should follow a 51-7 road loss. We were coming home against a far weaker opponent with our shiny new coach and our shiny new team in our shiny new(ish) stadium. This was the TRUE start of the Jay Norvell era. The weather knew better though as the cool and wet air moved in the night before. It was a sign.
The Rams won the toss and elected to receive. Damn right - give the damn Fort Air Raid the damn ball in our damn home stadium. One kickoff, one long MTSU injury delay, and one CSU offensive play later, the Rams were down 7-0. Ouch. A telegraphed pass attempt from Clay Millen to Tory Horton sailed over the receivers head and into the awaiting arms of Middle Tennessee safety Tra Fluellen who had an unimpeded look at the end zone just a short 35 yards away. And that was just the start...
The Big Uglies
|Courtesy of the Rocky Mountain Collegian
Regardless of who is playing along that line, the unit needs to improve drastically. Outside of the 19 point third quarter this past weekend, the Rams have more sacks given up (16) than points scored (7). That ratio needs to dramatically flip. No one else in the country has given up more than 11 sacks besides our boys in the green and gold. Painful (to watch and for Clay Millen, I'm assuming).
Millen to Horton (Repeat)
|Courtesy of the Loveland Reporter Herald
Protecting the Pig
For the second week in a row, the Rams lost the turnover battle. Two fumbles and two interceptions are catastrophic when you are trying to win a football game. Even worse is how you packaged up the turnovers:
- An interception returned for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage
- A fumble in the red zone (inside the 10 yard line!!)
- A fumble two offensive plays later on the next dang drive
- A late interception with 7:45 left in the game as the possibility of a comeback was rearing its head
Let's Be Positive
Despite the dominant performance by the Blue Raiders (lame name), there was some quality on the field.
- The aforementioned Millen-Horton connection. This could be the top QB/WR duo in the Mountain West by season's end.
- The consistent play from the defense. The Blue Raiders (still lame) scored 27 points in the first half; seven coming from their pick-six, two field goals, and two touchdowns on short fields (41 yards and 18 yards on their two touchdown drives). The offense did them no favors - they did not sustain drives or win the field position battle at all in the first half - and score reflected that accordingly. In the second half, the improved offensive production allowed the defense time to recover and keep up with the Middle Tennessee offense, holding them to just seven points the rest of the game. And those points came on the initial drive of the third quarter!
- Jack Howell - game changer (team leading 17 tackles, 1 interception)
- Mohamed Kamara - game changer (3 tackles for a loss, 1 sack)
- Robert Sudar - game changer (Starter jacket)
As one expects with the new transfer rules and a team in a rebuild, news broke this week of two experienced players entering the transfer portal - wide receiver and Freshman All American Dante Wright and place kicker Cayden Camper.
Let's start with Camper... #95 will forever be tied to the Rams as he holds the program record for most field goals in a game (six against SJSU in 2021). Camper was a decent kicker, but his FG% was only 69.6% for his career. The Rams have two senior transfers (Henry Katleman from Oregon and Michael Boyle from Hawaii) that will most likely take over FG duty this season. Katleman has been doing kickoffs all year and has a strong leg. The Norvell staff also recruited a freshman kicker - Bryan Hansen - out of Texas should the two seniors struggle. I am not exactly sure what the story is with Camper's departure, but I hope he finds success wherever he lands.
|Courtesy of Mountain West Connection
As Justin Michael said on his podcast the other day, this receivers room is the deepest it has been in a long, long time. There are some extremely talented (and BIG) receivers waiting to make an impact. At least one of these young guys (Justus Ross-Simmons, Mekhi Fox, Louis Brown, etc) will be on the field this season. In the long run, this move will be beneficial to both sides - Dante can get the playing time that he expects and the program can move into this new era of the Fort Air Raid.
Another P5 road game - this time to Pullman, Washington to face the Cougars of Washington State. As I developed my preseason game-by-game picks, I wavered on whether or not I thought the Rams could ride into town and steal a victory. Luckily for my personal picking record, realism beat out the dreamer in me and I landed on a Ram loss. Then Washington State rolled into Camp Randall in Madison and beat the Badgers last Saturday. This one could be another ugly loss.
|Courtesy of Seattle Sports 710 AM