The numbers are there for Colorado State, the wins are not.
The Colorado State (5-5, 3-3 Mountain West) offense has outgained their opponents in seven of ten possible games. Despite the advantage, the win column has not seen the benefits.
Look no further than the 49-46 loss to Air Force, where the Rams outgained the Falcons 559 yards to 534. Or at the 38-17 loss to Wyoming in week five, where CSU outgained Wyoming 481 yards to 434.
The yardage difference in the two losses where CSU outgained their opponent is not the most drastic, but it remains an area where they consistently out perform the competition without seeing rewards.
The three times CSU failed to outgain the opponent came in weeks one, four and seven. In week one Colorado won the yardage battle 578 to 225. In week four it was Minnesota with 417 yards to CSU’s 369, and week seven Boise State ran their way to a 444-373 advantage. CSU lost all three of those games.
But according to head coach Mike Bobo, yardage does not tell the whole story, rather the little things do.
“A lot of the time people look at yards and say, ‘hey, if you outgain somebody, you’re supposed to win,’ but it’s the little things within a football game,” Bobo said. “It’s finishing drives, it’s being efficient on third down, it’s when you have an opportunity to get a touchdown rather than a field goal, you score a touchdown. It’s not necessarily total yards.”
When CSU has been in position to finish off drives in the red zone, the Rams are among the nation’s best. Ranking 10th in the country, CSU has scored points on 38 of 41 red zone possessions and went an unblemished 5-for-5 in the loss to Air Force.
The red zone efficiency has been constant all season. One little thing that hasn’t for CSU is third-down efficiency.
Through the first seven games of the season CSU converted 35 of 104 third down attempts (33 percent). In the team’s last three games, they have converted 25 of 42 attempts (59 percent). On the season, the Rams rank 56th in the nation in third down efficiency converting 41 percent of attempts.
“We’ve done really well in the red zone when we get down there of getting touchdowns and getting points,” Bobo said. “We’ve been relatively poor on third-down, except the last three games. What has happened the last three games is, we’ve had yards, but now we’ve got more points because we’ve been more efficient on third-down. There are always little battles within a game that you’ve got to win, and we haven’t done that consistently enough.”
While the team’s overall third-down efficiency may leave some to be desired, there is no questioning the improvement the offense has exhibited in recent weeks. Operating at a cool 496-yards per game over the past month, CSU’s offense is thriving even if the record doesn’t exactly reflect that.
A lot of the credit deserves to go to the offensive coaching staff, according to Bobo.
“I really think our coaches have done an outstanding job of getting our guys week to week,” he said. “I told the offensive staff yesterday that, in my however many years I’ve been coaching, it’s probably the least amount of missed assignments that I’ve ever been a part of, and that’s a credit to those guys getting them ready to play every week with a bunch of different guys.”
Along with his coaching staff, Bobo credited redshirt junior quarterback Nick Stevens for the offensive success.
“I would credit Nick Stevens,” Bobo said. “He’s done a really nice job. Last year, when we went our little run and started playing pretty good offensively, it was heavy run. It was basically we’re going to take the ball out of Nick’s hands and we’re going to try to win the ballgame running the football and punt and playing defense. I didn’t want to do that this year…we couldn’t be one-dimensional (this year), and to that we had to put the ball in Nick’s hands and he’s done a nice job of playing extremely well. And he’s going to have to play really well against good teams down the stretch for us to have a chance.”
Since returning as the starter, Stevens has completed 71 percent of passes for 1,040 yards and eight touchdowns with just one interception. Stevens and the offense will go up against a New Mexico (7-3, 5-1 MW) defense this week that offensive coordinator Will Friend said is among the top units the Rams will face this season.
“They have a lot of team speed, they bring pressure, they cover, they can get to the quarterback without bringing pressure, they have good defensive lineman, so we have to be at our best this week,” Friend said.
Colorado State and New Mexico will kickoff Nov. 19 at 8:15 p.m. MT for the final game at Hughes Stadium.
Collegian sports editor can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ChadDeutschman