COMMERCE CITY — Offense was the main attraction during the Colorado State football team’s second scrimmage of the spring Saturday afternoon at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park near Denver.
On a field normally used set for soccer, quarterbacks Garrett Grayson, and Nick Stevens put on an offensive clinic for the nearly 1,000 fans in attendance. Grayson, a senior from Vancouver, Wash., completed 17 of 21 pass attempts for 222 yards and a 13-yard touchdown to senior wideout Charles Lovett during the first offensive series.
Stevens, a redshirt freshman from Murrieta, Calif., was also impressive, completing 12 of his 18 attempts for 166 yards and two touchdowns.
“Garrett was pretty sharp, I think we had a couple drops that hurt,” head coach Jim McElwain said. “I thought (tight end) Kivon (Cartwright) should’ve got his head around and caught one in the end zone. And then Rashard (Higgins) dropped one there in the overtime period, but other than that I thought we played pretty clean.”
But despite impressive days from both Grayson and Stevens, it was converted safety Jasen Oden who stole the show as the team’s No. 1 running back. A 5-foot-10, 215-pound junior who only began playing running back for the Rams this spring, Oden impressed both players and coaches with his bruising style, racking up 69 yards on 15 carries, including a pair of touchdown runs from inside the 2-yard line.
Oden also showed some skills out of the backfield, catching two passes for 16 yards.
“I’ve been saying it from when we started practice here in the spring, that he just needed to learn what he was doing, and he’d be just fine,” Grayson said. “At the beginning, he wasn’t really sure what to do on certain plays, and when you’re doing that you can’t play at full speed. But as everybody saw today, he’s a heck of running back and I hope he can continue it as we move forward.”
In what was primarily an offense-friendly scrimmage, junior cornerback Saladin McCullough II forced the only turnover of the day, grabbing an interception that he returned 41 yards for a touchdown off after an errant pass by Stevens. Playing heavily in their base defensive set, the Rams struggled with missed tackles and an inconsistent pass rush, something McElwain lamented after the scrimmage.
“We were hitting guys pretty high and missed some tackles, and I think we’ll see that on film,” McElwain said. “We tackled better in our last scrimmage and we rushed the passer at times today but that’s something we’ve got to get more consistent with.”
With just four practices left before next Saturday’s spring game, both players and coaches have been impressed with improvement they’ve seen, but know there is still a lot of work to be before their 2014 season opener Aug. 29 against in-state rival Colorado.
Included in that is Oden, who knows that despite sitting atop the depth chart right now, there is no guarantee he will be the Rams’ starter in fall camp. With two prep standouts and a possible junior college transfer coming in this summer, he and the rest of the Colorado State team expect fierce battles to continue through the spring and summer.
“We’re all going to compete, I’m going to push them and they’re going to push me,” Oden said. “That’s how it is at every position, but we’ve got a lot of good backs here. I can’t wait till these new guys get here and we’re all going to put in the work together, and whoever’s the best is going to play, simple as that.”
Collegian Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @kpopecollegian.