The Year 2013
Where is Shaquil Barrett when you need him? The last time the Rams played the Cougars, it was at the 2013 New Mexico Bowl at University Stadium in Albuquerque. The Rams trailed by 15 with less than four minutes remaining in the game. A quick drive ending in a Garrett Grayson to Jordon Vaden touchdown got the Rams within eight with less than three minutes to go. Shaq Barrett caused a fumble and recovered it himself. Kapri Bibbs scored his third touchdown of the day with half a minute remaining, Donnell Alexander pushed in the 2-point conversion, and the game was tied. On the ensuing kickoff, the Cougars fumbled the ball away and the Rams recovered. The Rams ran two offensive plays, got the clock down to 0:04 and then Jared Roberts cranked a 41-yard field goal through the uprights to complete the comeback and provide me with one of the greatest Ram football memories of my lifetime. For real - just go back and watch these highlights. That Ram team was eff-you-enn fun.
But that game was 9 years ago, Mike, why are you giving us an old recap?! Because it is more fun than recapping the game from this past Saturday, fine reader.
Our grit-filled Rams travelled to Pullman, Washington to face a team whose only focus was avenging that 2013 loss (presumably). Never mind that the Cougars had just waltzed into Camp Randall and beat the Badgers on their home turf the previous week. Never mind that the Cougars were receiving votes in the various top 25 polls. No - they were out for revenge for a game that happened when the players were in elementary/middle school and the coach was a defensive coordinator at Augustana University (not a made up school).
The revenge saga played out in a storybook manner for Cougars fans - elated that their heartbreaking defeat from years ago was finally avenged. It started like the two previous CSU games - the opponents quickly putting the Rams at a deficit. The sequence encapsulates the first half of CSU football games all season:
- CSU receives the opening kickoff
- CSU gains -5 yards (2 runs for 4 yards, a 9 yard sack) and poorly punts the ball away
- Four play, 46 yard Cougar TD drive
- CSU gains -5 yards (1 run for 0 yards, a penalty, and two incomplete passes) and poorly punts the ball away
- Five play, 52 yard Cougar TD drive
- The offensive line struggled - we added another seven (SEVEN!!) sacks to our season totals. In three games, we have given up a staggering 23 sacks - comfortably the most in all of FBS. Second place Akron only has given up 15 all year.
- Our run game was ineffective. Missing leading rusher A'Jon Vivens to injury, the running back stable was able to produce 51 yards on 17 carries. If you add in the Clay Millen runs/sacks, the yards per carry average was 1.2 for the game. Ouch.
- The punt game was atrocious. Ryan Stonehouse spoiled us the past several years with big booming punts that flipped the field and gave the defense a chance to use the field to their advantage. Five punts with a 34 yard average are not going to cut it. Struggling teams need to win field position battles to be competitive in games where they are overmatched and the punt unit has failed to do that.
- The CSU kicking unit missed their only attempt on the day - a 44 yard attempt and fitting ode to recently departed Caden Camper.
- Third and fourth down continue to be a problem. Overall, the Rams were a dismal 2-13 on third down and 1-5 on fourth. This offense NEEDS to sustain drives and that involves success on those late down chances.
Longest current losing streaks:— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) September 20, 2022
Colorado State 9
New Mexico State 4
Georgia State 3
Filed to ESPN in honor of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince, er, King Charles: The latest edition of the #Bottom10 gets the royal treatment as get off the throne to crown a new No. 1. https://t.co/LSglXIAZRA— Ryan McGee (@ESPNMcGee) September 21, 2022
You'll notice a high percentage of Colorado football teams on both lists. Not a good time for college football in Colorado. Hell, even Air Force lost to freaking Wyoming!
To pile on, Jay Norvell announced this week that two more CSU players had left the team. CSU's second leading receiver (and Nevada transfer) Melquan decided to maintain his second-to-last year of eligibility and leave the program. Backup offensive lineman Ches Jackson also announced that he was leaving the program. While it stinks that a player of Melquan's talent is leaving the program, the depth of the wide receiver room might be their biggest strength on the offensive side of the ball. The departures of Stovall and Wright open up huge opportunities for the young, talented, and BIG wide receivers recruited by the Norvell staff.
Anyone can spit on a program when it is down and I am not that kind of person. The Rams are in a full rebuild with the daunting task of eradicating the losing mentality of the previous two coaching staffs. Years and years of losing culture does not get erased in a couple weeks, especially when two out of three games are on the road against teams in or near the top 25. This program is smack dab in the middle of a cultural-shifting rebuild and the most important thing to utilize as a fan in a situation like this is patience. So let's talk about the good things we saw on Saturday:
- Six players (Horton, McCullouch, Morrow, Ross-Simmons, Stovall, Thomas) caught passes and all of them had no less than three receptions. As the season progresses, Millen needs his attempts to be spread around this roster to more than just Tory Horton and Saturday's game was a great start.
- Justus Ross-Simmons saw his first extended time for CSU and he looked like the receiver we were introduced to during his recruiting. His three catches for 20 yards included his career first touchdown of 14 yards to get the Rams on the board.
- Jack Howell, yet again, proving how valuable he is to the back side of the defense. Second on the team in tackles, plus another interception. Had he kept the ball off the turn in Ann Arbor, he would have an interception in all three games so far.
- CJ Onyechi and Mohamed Kamara are becoming quite the formidable pass rushers off the edge. Between Onyechi's 2 sacks and Kamara's 1.5 sacks, those two were constantly in the backfield causing a ruckus.
- This stat:
70 FBS quarterbacks have attempted at least 85 pass attempts so far in 2022. Just eight of them have a higher completion rate than Colorado State's Clay Millen, who's completed 71.8% of his throws.— Mountain West Wire (@MWCwire) September 18, 2022
- This is astounding, considering what Millen has faced this year. Constantly under pressure, sacked more than anyone else in college football, hit hard seemingly every play, yet he still does a great job getting the ball to his receivers. And this is a freshman quarterback making his first three starts of his college career while getting his butt kicked on the regular. If that doesn't make you optimistic about our Rams, I don't know what will.
- The remaining schedule finally starts to get manageable. When these non-conference games were scheduled years ago, Michigan was a big get and an anticipated loss. Washington State has been so up-and-down, it was a coin toss when it was scheduled. In most cases, a Middle Tennessee game is a no-doubt winner but they caught us in an abyss that we are now trying to climb out of. The rest of year is FCS and MWC - significantly different than Power 5 road games. Now this is not me saying that the Rams will win out, but the odds of snagging a victory are way higher going forward. And with the Mountain West having a down year, this is the time to improve that offensive effort, fortify that offensive line, string together some quality drives, and maybe just maybe score some points in the first half of a game.
|Courtesy of CSURams.com|