Coming out of Saturday’s 47-21 win against the University of Northern Colorado, the Colorado State Rams offense officially had something they had been lacking all year: confidence.
They should be confident, and it can not be denied that the offense has made huge strides in the last week, but that was the University of Northern Colorado. This week presents a much tougher challenge. It is a confidence level that has to be reserved.
On Saturday, true freshman Quarterback Collin Hill came out and completed 21 passes in his first start, or two more than junior Nick Stevens and Senior Faton Bauta have thrown for all season. When Hill got the nod in practice last week, the team responded favorably, and it was no different after Saturday’s performance.
“Just the thought of alright, we are not going be one dimensional, we are going to be able to be able to be more balanced,” Coach Mike Bobo said of his offense’s mindset. “For him to come out and execute the gameplan and really everyone execute the game plan, not just him, I think you could see the confidence level go up in the offensive group.”
Throughout Saturday’s game, confidence started budding for this CSU team, especially for skill position players who finally had the opportunity to go out and make plays when the offense opened up the playbook, and Hill put the ball where it needed to be.
“(We were) more comfortable calling some plays because Collin can make throws,” Bobo said. “But the players were making really good plays. Us calling those (plays) gave the guys some confidence and they were able to make plays and it’s contagious.”
On Saturday, CSU scored on seven of its eight offensive possessions in the first half. For the most part, it was a seamless offensive performance, especially from Hill.
Bobo’s message this week: Don’t expect the same thing on Saturday.
“We are not going to go through this game and punt only one time. This is where a young quarterback has got to play within himself,” Bobo said. “We can’t turn a bad play into a catastrophe and turn the ball over.”
Statistically, Minnesota does not rank near the top of Division one college football defenses, sitting at 70th in the nation for total scoring defense, after surrendering 23 points to Oregon State and 28 to Indiana State.
But these CSU coaches had went up against this Minnesota defense last year. They know what the Gophers will bring to the table on Saturday.
“They are physical, they are fast, they are well coached,” offensive coordinator Will Friend said. “It’s the best defensive team we have played since I’ve been here.”
“It’s a big test, these guys play really good defense,” Bobo said. “They are not going to make many mistakes. Guys are going to be where they are supposed to. The pass rush is definitely something we have not seen, (it’s) probably the best pass rush we have seen all year.”
Hill and the offense may have had a field day against UNC last week, but windows are going to close significantly faster against this fast, physical Minnesota defense. Hill will also find himself under significant duress for the first time in a CSU uniform.
The challenge for Bobo this week is to keep his young quarterback’s confidence growing, while also stressing to him that this week will not be perfect, and especially that this week will not be as smooth as the last.
Hill is going to make mistakes, he just has to be decisive. It’s his first true test as a CSU quarterback, and it’s coming in a hostile atmosphere in Minneapolis on Saturday.
His demeanor and his approach have to stay the same way as it was against UNC, he can’t let the environment or the opposing team overwhelm him in his second start.
“He has to play with poise, he has to play with confidence,” Bobo said. “I believe the way you get your quarterback that way is you hone down your gameplan where he understands what he has to do. He has to focus on his assignments. They are bigger, they are faster, but he has to understand what he has to do. He has to play within himself.”
Collegian sports reporter Eric Wolf can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Eric_Wolf5