There comes a point when the frustration of seeing and hearing about the same mistakes can take a toll on a person.
That point came for head coach Jim McElwain in a postgame press conference in which only one question was asked after Saturday night’s 42-30 loss against Boise State. For the first time all season, McElwain raised his voice when asked about his team’s pass defense and how it can improve at this point in the season after giving up big plays to another opponent.
“Keep working on fundamentals,” McElwain said. “When the ball is in the air, don’t panic. I’m not giving up on those guys. We keep working. We work fundamentals every single day and we just keep working on them and when they’re in position they make plays. There comes a point when you look yourself in the mirror and say ‘look, I’m going to go compete.’ That’s the bottom line.”
Giving up explosive plays has been a weakness for the Rams. Earlier this season McElwain called that weakness a “fatal flaw” and it reared its ugly head again on Saturday when the Rams gave up touchdown passes from 68 and 42 yards in the 20 minutes the defense was on the field.
The start of the game looked promising for the Rams who scored on their first possession on a 29-yard field goal from kicker Jared Roberts. The Rams defense quickly forced a turnover on the Broncos ensuing possession that gave CSU an early 10-0 lead over their Mountain Division rival.
The Rams offense stalled in the second half and BSU held a 42-17 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Still, the Rams showed that they are a different team this year. While the game looked like it would be another lopsided victory for the Broncos, who had outscored the Rams 105-27 in two previous meetings between the teams, the Rams showed the no-quit attitude the team has possessed all season long.
“If that was the team of last year we would have gave it up in the second quarter,” said safety Trent Matthews. “I give it all to my team, offensively and defensively, we played all four quarters.”
The Rams scored two consecutive touchdowns and completed a successful onside kick late in the fourth quarter. It looked like they were on their way to scoring again in the final minutes of the game, but an interception gave the Broncos the ball back and hope for a Ram comeback fell short.
While the chances of playing in the Mountain West Championship game are not as likely after the loss put them in third place in the Mountain Division, the Rams still have a lot to play for, including the chance to play in a bowl game for the first time since 2008. In order to do so, the Rams need to win at least three of their remaining four games.
“It’s going to be tough but we have to have short term memories,” receiver Charles Lovett said. “We have a good team, a Nevada team coming in next week and we just have to regroup and change our mindset and focus on them because this game is behind us. We can’t get it back.”
The Rams may have fallen short in this game, but McElwain has seen progress in his team. For a coach that has talked all season long about the importance of not taking shortcuts, this is another game he hopes his team will learn from moving forward.
“We’re a football team in transition, we’re a football team that’s building,” McElwain said. “Every time we get a chance to play we learn something and I don’t think we backed down at all.”
Football Beat Reporter Katie O’Keefe can be reached at email@example.com.