The Colorado State football team’s climb to the top of the Mountain West may be a longer journey than they had hoped for. Saturday’s humbling 37-24 loss to Boise State reminded not just the Rams, but everyone else in the league of one thing – the Broncos are still the class of the Mountain West.
It also pointed out a few major flaws that were covered up by the joy of last week’s 31-17 victory over rival Colorado, the same team who barely escaped with a 41-38 victory over a Massachusetts team that has won all of two games in three years as a Football Bowl Subdivision member.
The Rams entered Boise looking to make a statement as contender in the Mountain West, but instead have come home to more questions than answers. Here are the three biggest unknowns facing the Rams as they prepare for their home opener Saturday against the University of California-Davis:
What should we expect from Colorado State’s offensive line?
After pounding the Buffs for 266 rushing yards last weekend, the Rams inexperienced line was dominated Saturday night by Boise’s front four. The gaping holes that running backs Dee Hart and Treyous Jarrells had busted through were nowhere to be found against the Broncos. Where the Buffs missed tackles behind the line of scrimmage, Boise State gang-tackled with three and four players to bring the Rams’ elusive duo to the royal blue “Smurf turf.” By the midway point of the third quarter, Colorado State completely abandoned the running game, putting the game on the shoulders of senior quarterback Garrett Grayson. While his passing yardage numbers were impressive, Grayson’s efficiency wasn’t. Constantly harassed by a Boise State front seven who was able to pin their ears back and strictly worry about getting to the quarterback, Grayson completed just 31 of 58 passes and was picked off twice at crucial points in the game. At times, Colorado State’s offensive line matched up well with the Broncos, but at others they simply got run over.
Can the Rams find a consistent receiving threat besides Rashard Higgins and Joe Hansley?
Through two games, Hansley and Higgins have accounted for 43 percent of CSU’s receptions and 54 percent of their receiving yards. But other than that starting duo, CSU’s receiving corps have been wildly inconsistent. Speedsters Xavier Williams and Jordon Vaden have caught just six passes for 53 yards and haven’t been able to stretch the field with their size and speed. Drops have plagued Vaden in both of the Rams’ games and he will likely find less balls thrown his way because of it. If the Rams want to keep teams from stacking the box, they will have to develop something resembling a consistent passing game.
Can the CSU secondary stop anyone?
All offseason, one of the biggest question marks on the Colorado State team was their defensive secondary, and for good reason. The Rams gave up 33 passing touchdowns a year ago and are on pace to get close to that number again if they can’t find a way to shut opposing offenses down. While the CSU defense did force two sacks of Boise State quarterback Grant Hedrick, for the majority of the game Hedrick had all day to throw. In two games against the Rams, Hedrick has completed 41 of 6o passes for 657 yards and seven touchdowns, including a school-record five last year. It doesn’t get any easier for the Rams as they’ll face Utah State standout Chuckie Keeton as well as Nevada dual-threat quarterback Cody Fajardo. Whether its communication, lack of speed or any other reason, if the Rams are truly serious about competing for the Mountain West title, they will have to figure out how to stop the big play.
The Pope has spoken.
Collegian Sports Editor Keegan Pope can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @kpopecollegian.