Just like many of the other 26,000 students on campus struggling through midterms, the CSU football team is doing just enough to stay alive and remain in contention at accomplishing what it started back in August.
The Rams have regained attention after turning an early struggle of a 1-3 start into an even 4-4 standing.
Now eight games deep, CSU is getting my (near) midseason review to see if making something out of nothing is actually in the cards for Colorado State.
Overall offense — B
Passing — B+
Quarterback Garrett Grayson, who has started in all eight games for the Rams, doesn’t own the most appealing statistics.
The junior has racked up 1,847 yards in the air to accompany his 14 touchdown passes that have landed his QB rating at a 136.6. However, the fact that he’s thrown six interceptions and posts a sub-60 percent completion rate are hard to overlook.
Instead, Grayson’s leadership is responsible for him making the grade.
Coach Jim McElwain had still yet to make up his mind about who he wanted calling the shots in the huddle all the way up to the season-opener against Colorado. Grayson earned the honor on game day over two others running for the position, and McElwain hasn’t switched gears yet.
Rushing — A-
The no arguing that the Rams present a stronger run game than most of their opponents have presented thus far.
The biggest factor remains that CSU has options when it comes to its backs. Three notable athletes: Kapri Bibbs, Chris Nwoke and Donnell Alexander have spent their share in the limelight of the depth chart. CSU’s 1,456 yards compared to an opposing 1,099 are enough to win fans over, on top of the fact that any running back can step up and make a big play happen when called to do so.
Bibbs’ recent success serves as the extra credit that awards CSU the mark of excellence. The newcomer’s consecutive three-touchdown performances have matched what he accomplished through the first six games of the season.
Receiving — B-
Despite struggling through the first few weeks of having to go back to the basics, the Rams’ receiving corps finally seems to be clicking.
Communication errors and dropped passes drearily loomed over the CSU receivers in their first three games, but as Jay-Z once said, “I guess I got my swagger back… proof.”
The tight ends have played a pivotal role in turning things around. Kivon Cartwright and Crockett Gillmore are the ones to thank here because it’s given Grayson a whole new array of threatening targets when scanning downfield.
Overall defense — C+
Passing — D-
There’s no way to sugarcoat this one — things have been quite ugly for the secondary in the first half of 2013.
Surrendering big-yardage passing plays to other teams has continued to break down the CSU defense, and has ultimately led to the Rams leaving the field in defeat. The Rams let CU quarterback Connor Wood put up an astronomical 400 yards in the Rocky Mountain Showdown, setting the tone early on the year.
CSU gives up an average of 310 yards via passing in each matchup, giving opponents a grand total of 2,481. C’mon man.
Rushing — A
The strongest asset the CSU football team possesses is without a doubt its ability to stop the run game dead in its tracks.
I officially became a believer in this when the Rams traveled to Tuscaloosa fresh off their two worst defensive rushing performances of the season. Aside from Saturday’s game at Hawaii, CSU’s best numbers in this category were presented to a No. 1 Alabama squad known best for scoring on the run.
It was rather impressive to watch Nick Saban exit the field wearing a scowl on his face after squeezing only 66 rushing yards out of his former protege in McElwain’s Homecoming to Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Head coach Jim McElwain — B
With a good remainder of the regular season on the horizon, McElwain has already matched his number of victories he was able to squeak out in his debut last year.
Three-consecutive 3-9 seasons that former head coach Steve Fairchild lost his job over had to be some intimidating shoes to fill, and turning a Division I football program around isn’t an overnight process. But the recent bounce back that has revitalized hope in CSU is the direct product that Mac is doing something right.
Your grade impresses college students who live by the motto that “C’s get degrees” such as myself, Mac attack. But you’ve still got your work cut out for you if you dream of building Colorado State football into a powerhouse comparable to the one you left in December 2011.
Sports Editor Quentin Sickafoose can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @QSickafoose.